4 November 2015

National research facility

State Secretary Dekker opens ultra-powerful ‘MRI’ for molecules


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. 

Photo: Reinout Raijmakers.

Absolute global leader

With a 22-Tesla magnetic field, the uNMR-NL facility now has one of the most powerful NMR spectrometers in the world. But in two years, a new magnet will be installed that will make it the strongest in the world, at no less than 28 Tesla. This new magnet is still under development, because it requires new superconductive materials for its construction.

Whole-object visualisation

Thanks to the ultra high magnetic field, the measurements are much more detailed and allow for the study of much larger molecules. The new magnet can measure both solutions and solids, such as crystals and powders, and even whole cells. Often, NMR spectrometers are equipped to either measure solution or solid samples. It is also exceptional in that it can make MR images of an entire object, such as a leaf or even small plants.

Public-private partnership

The uNMR-NL facility was set up by the universities of Utrecht, Eindhoven, Leiden, Nijmegen and Wageningen in cooperation with the public-private institute for analytical chemistry COAST. But researchers from other Dutch universities, research institutions and companies will be able to submit research proposals as well.

National NWO Road Map

The investment in the uNMR-NL facility is part of the NWO National Road Map programme for large-scale research facilities. The goal of the programme is to reinforce the Netherlands’ leading position in scientific research through the development and construction of large-scale research facilities.

Opening programme

The official opening by State Secretary Sander Dekker will take place in the Victor J. Koningsbergergebouw at the Uithof campus of Utrecht University at 14:00. For the full programme, see the website.

More information

Website uNMR-NL

Website TI-COAST


Please contact Monica van der Garde, Press Spokesperson, Faculty of Science, m.vandergarde@uu.nl, +31 (0)6 13 66 14 38

NMR, applications and the uNMR-NL facility
Video about NMR and its applications, presented at the opening of the facility.