Upgrading the NMR lab

NMR signal

By Marge d’Wylde

We are very grateful to Builders of Berkeley members Rubber and Joy Chen of PMP Tech for their $2M gift which includes the purchase of two new Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) instruments for the NMR Facility at the College of Chemistry (CoC-NMR).

Douglas Clark, Dean of the College

The College will receive a Magritek Spinsolve 80 MHz benchtop NMR spectrometer early in 2023. The second instrument, a fully automated 500 MHz Bruker Avance NEO spectrometer that is equipped with a highly sensitive detector, a cryoprobe, will come later in the year. The addition of these new state-of-the-art instruments will greatly enhance the CoC-NMR’s capacity for supporting research and education as part of our mission at the College of Chemistry.

Magritek Spinsolve 80 MHz benchtop NMR spectrometer.

The CoC-NMR is located on the D level of Latimer Hall in a single 2100 square foot laboratory. Their current resources include seven NMR spectrometers which are available for hands-on use to all members of the UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab communities, including undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral and visiting scholars. The CoC-NMR instruments are available for use 24 hours a day year around.

During the 2021-22 academic year, the CoC-NMR served more than 500 users who ran over 30,000 hours of NMR analysis. Most NMR users were members of the UC Berkeley community coming from the chemistry, chemical and bioengineering, chem-bio, and environmental and materials science groups. Berkeley Lab researchers and Bay Area companies also regularly access analytical resources available at the facility.

Additionally, the CoC-NMR runs an undergraduate training program for students taking advanced synthetic labs such as Chem 108 and Chem 115 as well as first year graduate students taking Chem 265. Once trained, these students can independently analyze their samples with the CoC-NMR spectrometers. The Magritek Spinsolve instrument will be dedicated to supporting undergraduate research and education in these labs and will play a critical role in professional development for our students.

The facility’s director Hasan Celik states, “The NMR Facility is central to the College’s mission of training our undergraduate and graduate students and creating the necessary analytical resources to push the boundaries in all areas of chemical research. It’s not just one research group benefiting from these shared resources. In the same space, we have researchers specializing in drug design, organic synthetic chemistry, or catalysis, using NMR spectroscopy to support their science and analyze their results. We also have researchers using the same instruments designing the next generation of materials that are going to hopefully help us solve the grand challenges of climate research. We have done a lot of instrument upgrades recently to meet these challenges but this donation from Mr. and Mrs. Chen will allow the facility to leap forward in our research capacity and capabilities.”

“NMR spectroscopy is one of the most powerful ways for looking at chemical bonds,” Celik continues. “The new technology we are acquiring with the 500 MHz instrument will be much more sensitive than our existing equipment. Currently, certain experiments can take 10, 20, or 30 hours to run. With this new instrument, we can cut down that time by a factor of 10. As a result, we will be able to finish in three hours an experiment that previously took 30 hours. This is a quantum leap forward for the facility both in terms of efficiency and type of research projects we can now run that will push the boundaries of science.

About Rubber and Joy Chen

Rubber and Joy Chen are incredibly generous friends and partners of the College of Chemistry and Builders of Berkeley. Their company, PMP Tech, is known worldwide for the manufacture of innovative high-tech elastomers and other environmentally friendly rubber products for consumer electronics. In 2020, PMP Tech donated $3.6M to establish the PMP Tech Chancellor’s Chair in the Department of Chemistry at UC Berkeley, which is now held by Professor of Chemistry T. Don Tilley. The Chens also pledged $10M last year in support of the Heathcock Hall building fund.

PMP Tech was founded in 1978 by Rubber and Joy Chen in Taiwan. With an extensive international clientele, the company focuses on product lines that include functional elastomers (silicone/rubber); dissimilar material bonding (silicone rubber bonded with metal, plastic, textile, glass, etc.); silicone rubbers with precise dimensions; medical grade products; and other products.