On Thursday, 5 November, State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science Sander Dekker will officially open the uNMR-NL research facility at Utrecht University, a new, national ‘MRI’ for molecules. With its ultra-powerful magnet, uNMR-NL is among the world’s leading facilities, allowing researchers to study very large molecules for the first time, with an extremely high-resolution. The magnet can be used for chemical, biological, and materials science research. The facility cements the Netherlands’ leading position in international NMR research. uNMR-NL was funded by a 18.5 million Euro investment by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).
An NMR spectrometer works using the same principle as an MRI scanner in a hospital, in order to visualise the structure of molecules. “Molecules are the foundation for life and for the materials that we as humans can make. In order to understand the role a specific protein plays in the development of cancer, or why a new nanomaterial displays certain properties, you have to understand the structure of the molecules. With this spectrometer, we can determine the structures that have been impossible to visualise until now, such as the proteins that occur within cells”, explains Utrecht University’s Professor of NMR spectroscopy and coordinator of uNMR-NL, Marc Baldus.