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Radiochemical Processing Laboratory

Radiological Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Laboratory

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) methods have been exploited by chemists to study innumerable chemical systems. The maturity of the techniques is such that they are routinely used in the study of organic, organometallic, and coordination compounds; including very complex molecules such as proteins, enzymes, and DNA. Indeed, magnetic resonance is used to image humans for medical diagnostics (MRI). Yet, capabilities to study radioactive materials by magnetic resonance techniques are very limited. With this in mind, PNNL researchers set out to establish a facility specifically designed for NMR examination of radioactive materials. This effort has culminated in the RPL Radiological NMR Laboratory. This facility houses two NMR spectrometers-a 300 MHz spectrometer and a variable field spectrometer.

nmr spectrometer
NMR spectrometer

The 300 MHz NMR spectrometer is built around an Oxford Instruments 300 MHz superconducting magnet. Currently a two-channel, 5 mm MAS probe for solids and a two-channel 10 mm liquids probe are available for work with high dose radioactive materials. Both probes have one broadband channel and one proton-decoupling channel. Two new probes have been added to the capability: a 7.5mm HX MAS solids probe and a 10 mm two-channel probe capable of tritium detection. The facility was designed for investigation of radioactive materials in the environment, radioactive tank waste, Pu bearing materials, and other DOE mission active areas as well as fundamental studies of actinide metal salts.

The variable-field NMR spectrometer (still under construction) is built around a Varian electromagnet. This magnet is capable of generating fields up to 2 Tesla (85 MHz proton). The lower fields accessible with this instrument are advantageous for certain measurements with paramagnetic materials. For example, this spectrometer will be used to examine moisture content in actinide-bearing solids, which is critical to a number of DOE missions. The variable-field instrument is being designed and constructed by PNNL researchers to address the challenges of examining highly radioactive paramagnetic materials.

The system is partially supported by EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a Department of Energy national scientific user facility at PNNL. As part of the user program, the spectrometer is available for use by the global scientific community for open research through EMSL's proposal process.

Point of Contact:
Herman Cho, Catalysis Science Team
Phone: (509) 372-6046

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