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The University of Southampton


An artistic impression of the long-lived spin states research theme
An artistic impression of the long-lived spin states research theme

Our research is dedicated to exploring the foundations of magnetic resonance, to extending its capabilities, and to finding new ways to apply magnetic resonance methods to the study of materials, life processes, and chemistry.

Atomic nuclei have a mass and an electric charge. In addition, some types of nuclei also carry a magnetic moment. They therefore act like tiny bar magnets, each with a south and a north pole. As it turns out, this property offers a unique window into the inner workings of atoms, molecules, liquids and solids, and even living organisms. When magnetic atomic nuclei are placed in a strong magnetic field, their magnetic moments rotate (precess) around the field, allowing them to absorb and emit radio waves. Governed by the laws of quantum mechanics, this precession happens at a very precisely defined frequency, and produces electromagnetic signals that can be detected with great accuracy.

By carefully examining these signals, a wealth of information about the molecules surrounding the atomic nuclei can be obtained, revealing their structure, chemical reaction mechanisms, and dynamics. This forms the basis not only of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, but also of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is of paramount importance in medical diagnostics.


An example of a chip for Microfluidics NMR
An example of a chip for Microfluidics NMR

Our research projects aim to extend the possibilities of magnetic resonance, for example, by developing detectors with improved sensitivity. We are also exploring methods that allow to align the nuclear spins in a sample all in the same direction at the start of a measurement, thus dramatically enhancing the magnetic resonance signal. We are pioneering the use of special quantum states with unusually long life times to study diffusion and convection in rocks and other porous media. Advanced multi-dimensional spectroscopy allows us to study the structure of proteins that are crucial for the human immune system. We are developing magnetic resonance methods to study exotic materials such as superconductors and fullerenes. Integrating NMR spectroscopy with lab-on-a-chip culture of human tissue could support the development of new drugs, and reduce the need for animal experiments. Solid-state NMR studies allow to optimise catalysts, thereby increasing the yield of chemical production processes.


Our interests span from theoretical spin dynamics to biological NMR going through solid-state NMR, hyperpolarised NMR, Cryogenic NMR, long-lived spin states, diffusion and flow NMR, microfluidics NMR. As such we work at the borderlines of chemistry, biology, physics, medicine and engineering.


We conduct excellence in NMR research. MagRes@Soton researches on a number of frontline NMR topics and we are recognised among the world leaders in the field. This is demonstrated by the number of national and international prizes we were individually awarded (see our individual profile page) and the frequent invitations to speak at major conferences, NMR schools and other events.


Currently awarded core funding in projects we lead as principal investigators exceeds £8.5M. Beyond these core projects, we are involved in a wide range of collaborations, typically contributing NMR know-how to assist research in materials science, organic chemistry, and other fields.


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