Back to Basics: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopic

Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, most commonly known as NMR spectroscopy, is a research technique that exploits the magnetic properties of certain atomic nuclei. It determines the physical and chemical properties of atoms or the molecules in which they are contained. It relies on the phenomenon of nuclear magnetic resonance and can provide detailed information about the structure, dynamics, reaction state, and chemical environment of molecules. The NMR is an important tool to analyze many different kind of materials.

NMR_studio coloranti bisIt is possible to study chemical structure of organic materials, like proteinaceous binders and drying oils used to create a work of art, to understand and compare their native structure with their degradation mechanism. A common goal of these investigations is to obtain high resolution 3-dimensional structures of the protein, similar to what can be achieved by X-ray crystallography. NMR spectroscopy is often the only way to obtain high resolution information on partially or wholly intrinsically unstructured proteins. Another very interesting study that could be carried out with this instrument is the examination of natural dyes’s chemical structures in relation to their process of production or natural source.

NMR_studio colorantiThis is very important in study of tapestries, because natural dyes are very degradable materials that change their chemical structure. This instrument allow to study also archeological materials, like pottery artifacts; in fact, with the analysis of cooking temperature it’s possible to characterize different process and geographical areas of productions. The important of NMR spectroscopy is related to the range of information and the diversity of samples, including solutions and solids. The Agilent Techologies have developed a 400 MHz NMR Spectrometer that allow to study solid, liquid and semisolid material, used in a very large number of works of art present in Vatican Museums.