Scope of NMR Applications in Basic Research and Industry

Scope of NMR Applications in Basic Research and Industry

NMR has established itself as a powerful tool in the hands of analytical scientist. It provides valuable structural details on small organic molecules, natural products, man- made synthesized materials, large biomolecules and other complex molecular entities with masses ranging upto around 100000 daltons.

Both X-ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy complement each other and provide information related to structural details and atomic orientations.

Detailed applications and methods can be accessed in treatises and reference manuals. The objective of this article is to provide you an insight into the potential applications of NMR in basic research and industry.

Research Applications

\(^1H\) NMR is popular to this day in University laboratories and research establishments. Availability of bench top models has contributed further to the acceptaibility of the technique. However, high end research applications demand high frequency superconducting NMR magnet systems. Such systems require elaborate infrastructure and additional safety norms and recurring cost of cryogenic fluids.

Typical research applications include:

Structure Elucidation

NMR is a powerful , reliable and a mature technique for structural identification of both natural and synthetic origin molecules including polymers and biomolecules.

Intermolecular interactions

NMR permits studies on weak molecular interactions including hydrogen bonding between inter molecular functional groups and other molecules present.

Molecular dynamics and protein folding

NMR is a powerful technique for studies on molecular dynamics of large biological molecules and protein folding/unfolding mechanisms.

Membrane studies

NMR permits atomic level structure determinations of proteins in natural membrane environments and also provides information on protein-ligand interactions

Enzymatic Interactions

Useful conformational studies are feasible on compounds bound to enzymes which helps understand biochemical process mechanisms.

Industrial applications

Industrial laboratories commonly use \(^1H\) NMR systems. High frequency superconducting magnet based systems are not common in industrial environments because of requirement of highly skilled operators, special infrastructure and higher recurring costs. Typical applications include pharmaceuticals, foods, petroleum products and polymeric synthetic materials


NMR is finding increased applications in food processing and surveillance of confiscated food specimens. Studies relate to qualitative analysis of both target compounds as well as suspected prohibited constituents. NMR also serves as a rapid routine confirmation to the findings of other complimentary techniques such as spectroscopy and chromatography.


NMR has immense potential in drug development and screening applications. Such studies are also extended to monitoring conformations of drug molecules bound to receptors and proteins.

Polymers & Synthetic materials

TG-NMR contributed to information on micro structure details of poly- olefins over a range of temperatures. Multinuclear studies such as \(^1^3C\) NMR provide valuable information on microstructures of polymers and co-polymers. The studies are extended to other engineering polymers for estimations of impurities, contaminants and degradation products that contribute to ageing effects of such materials.

NMR has proved to be a valuable asset in both academic research and industrial laboratories. NMR imaging is another field which has made significant contributions in medical diagnosis and will be covered in a subsequent article.

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