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Vice-Chancellor Glynis Breakwell outlines the merits of the new equipment
The VC with Chemistry staff
The VC with members of the Department of Chemistry
One of the lectures during the symposium to mark the opening of the facilities
One of the lectures during the symposium to mark the opening of the facilities

Internal News - 19 June 2007

New equipment enables chemical structure analysis of tiny samples

Analytical equipment worth nearly £1 million, which allows the University of Bath to carry out cutting-edge research into areas as diverse as hydrogen fuels, new drugs and innovative plastics has been officially opened.

The Department of Chemistry’s new facilities consist of two new mass spectrometers and two new nuclear magnetic resonance scanners, which can analyse the chemical structure of samples of materials smaller than the eye can see.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Glynis Breakwell, cut the ribbon to mark the official opening after an official tour of the facilities recently.

There followed a symposium with talks by invited speakers, including Dr Steve Pleasance, from HFL Ltd, on mass spectrometry applications in screening for drug use in sport. Dr Ian Sanders, a former PhD student in the Department and now Vice President of Bruker Daltonics, presented the latest developments in mass spectrometry.

Mass spectrometry is a technique used to weigh samples on a molecular level. The molecules are put into an electric or magnetic field where they separate according to their mass, which is then detected very accurately.

By knowing the mass accurately it is possible to identify what it is made up of, which helps to tell scientists what chemicals and impurities are present.

One of the mass spectrometers is coupled to an airless chamber where researchers can work on their samples using special gloves. This allows compounds to be analysed without exposing them to air or moisture, an experiment which is crucial for the chemists. This is the only ‘glove box’ and mass spectrometer combination in Europe.

NMR spectroscopy is used to look at the structure of a molecule. By looking at the interactions of the atoms within a molecule, it is possible to determine where they are located within the structure.

The new NMRs brings the total number of such instruments in the Department of Chemistry to four.

The instruments will be used for a variety of work, including helping with research related to hydrogen-powered cars that do not pollute the environment – as part of this, chemists at the University have invented a material which stores and releases hydrogen at room temperature. This could help make hydrogen power a viable clean technology for the future, but in order to be sure about their work chemists need to know exactly which compounds they are producing.

Other uses include helping research into innovative polymers that can be used to coat windows for self-cleaning or to block glare but still let light through.

The equipment was bought from Bruker Biospin Ltd and Bruker Daltonics Ltd in Coventry using two grants from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and will be available for use by departments other than Chemistry, and by outside organisations needing this type of analysis.

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