UNE upgrades research facilities in Chemistry and Pharmacy

Published 11 August 2015

Chemistry and Pharmacy research facilities at the University of New England have received a major upgrade with the installation of a new $650K nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer.

The 500 MHz instrument now operational at UNE is part of a $4.3 million network of five regional Universities investigating small molecule structure funded by the Australian Research Council.

Left to Right: Julian Klepp, A/Prof Chris Fellows, Dr Michelle Taylor and Dr Ben Greatrex

Left to Right: Julian Klepp, A/Prof Chris Fellows, Dr Michelle Taylor and Dr Ben Greatrex

Researchers at the University of New England will also gain access to a new $2.3 million dollar 800 MHz NMR to be located at Griffith University.

The team of scientists led by Dr Ben Greatrex, a medicinal chemist in the School of Science and Technology, says this new facility will allow chemists to determine molecular structure in ways that were not previously possible. This has applications in the development of new chemicals with bioactivity such as anticancer compounds, polymers and plastics and natural products isolated from plants and animals.

“The NMR instrument contains a superconducting magnet which operates at minus 269 °C, a temperature only slightly above absolute zero so must be cooled using liquid helium. The nuclei of atoms are tweaked with radio waves and we interpret the energy of the radio waves absorbed to characterise the atoms and bonds in the molecules. The strength of the new magnet allows resolution of extraordinarily complex structures,” Dr Greatrex said.

A/Prof in Chemistry, Dr Chris Fellows, is anticipating the new opportunities for research the instrument brings to UNE.

“NMR lets us follow processes, as well as identify molecules – we can use it to measure the changes in pasta as it cooks, for example, A/Prof Fellows said.

“The new NMR instrument will add to UNE’s capabilities in a range of areas, with an impact well beyond what we usually think of as ‘chemistry’.”