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Major European Grant to move NMR Spectroscopy Beyond the Laboratory

Posted on 22 September 2022

An academic in the Department of Chemistry has won a prestigious European Research Council Consolidator (ERC) Grant worth £1.7 million pounds to fund transformative research in NMR spectroscopy.

Dr Meghan Halse has received ERC funding for her five-year project: ‘Hyperpolarised NMR solutions beyond the laboratory (HyperSol)’. The overall goal is to develop a transformative, portable NMR technology that can be used to solve analytical problems outside of the traditional laboratory environment – from field measurements to use on the factory floor.

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a powerful technique that has revolutionised the physical and biological sciences. However, standard NMR spectrometers are large and expensive, meaning they are confined to dedicated technical facilities. The potential for a step-change in NMR exists if the detector could be taken out of the lab and brought to the sample. The challenge is to achieve this without sacrificing the sensitivity and chemical resolving power of laboratory NMR.

The unique innovation of the HyperSoL project will be a new method to amplify the NMR response of both hydrogen and carbon by factors of >1000-fold. This will dramatically enhance both the sensitivity and chemical discrimination of portable NMR devices. The HyperSoL project will develop two approaches based on both commercial and bespoke NMR instrumentation. Harnessing this new portable NMR technology will liberate NMR from the laboratory, transforming the way that it is used in such disparate areas as manufacturing, environmental monitoring, forensics, and field testing. 

Reflecting on the award, Dr Halse said: “In science, access to new data drives innovation. Disruptive technologies, such as those being developed here, have the potential to transform research by providing new quantitative information in a simple and cost-effective way.”

European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grants are highly competitive 5-year awards designed to support excellent Principal Investigators at the career stage at which they may still be consolidating their own independent research team or programme. Principal Investigators must demonstrate the ground-breaking nature, ambition and feasibility of their scientific proposal. Currently, as part of the post-Brexit arrangements projects selected for funding by ERC are being financially underwritten by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).