EPSRC New Investigator Award for Dr Meghan Halse

Posted on 14 February 2018

Dr Meghan Halse has been awarded £210,439 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to support research on “Lighting up Magnetic Resonance: SABRE optimisation powered by in situ detection”.

SABRE hyperpolarisation enables NMR and MRI in magnetic fields as low as the Earth’s magnetic field (50 µT), which is 200,000 times weaker than a standard NMR spectrometer (e.g. 9.4 T)

MRI and NMR are powerful tools in applications ranging from synthetic chemistry to medical diagnosis. However, such instruments are very expensive because they rely on large magnets to provide strong signals. Hyperpolarisation methods, such as the signal amplification by reversible exchange (SABRE) method invented here in York, dramatically improve the intensity of the NMR/MRI signals of target molecules by up to 100,000 times. These signal gains can be exploited either to reduce the cost of the technique by working in a weak magnetic field or to open up new applications: for example, hyperpolarisation methods provide new routes to probe disease in clinical MRI.  

The SABRE technique holds particular promise for low-cost NMR and MRI applications because the enhanced signals are generated using magnetic fields that are 10,000 times weaker than a normal NMR spectrometer. In this work, a low-magnetic-field NMR apparatus will be used as a platform to directly study the SABRE process in the precise conditions where the amplified signals are generated.  This will provide previously inaccessible information about how the technique works and will allow us to explore new methods for improving the efficiency of SABRE. The ultimate goal is to provide a route to the rapid optimisation of SABRE for a broad range of chemical systems and thus enable widespread applications of the method in areas like medicine and industrial manufacturing. 

This research will be carried out by Dr Meghan Halse within the Centre for Hyperpolarisation in Magnetic Resonance (CHyM) at the University of York. EPSRC is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change.