, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 365-404

Fast-field-cycling NMR: Applications and instrumentation

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Magnetic field cycling in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) experiments has been used since the early days of NMR. Originally such time-dependent magnetic field experiments were motivated to study cross relaxation, spin system thermodynamics and indirect detection of quadrupolar resonance. The first apparatus used mechanical or pneumatic systems to shoot the sample between two magnets, the typical “flying time” being a few hundreds of milliseconds. As a natural evolution of the experimental technique and the need to extend its application to samples with higher relaxation rates, faster magnetic field switching devices were developed during the last years. Special electric networks combined with sophisticated air core magnets allowed one to switch magnetic fields between zero and fields of the order of 0.5 T in a few milliseconds. Today we refer to this new generation of instruments as “fast-field-cycling” devices. The technique has been successfully used during the last years to obtain information on the molecular dynamics and order in different materials, ranging from organic solids, metals, polymers, liquid crystals, porous media to biological systems. At present it is also turning to be an important tool for the design of contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging. Fast field cycling was mainly oriented toT 1 relaxometry as a unique technique offering a dynamic window of several decades, ranging from few kilohertz to several megahertz. However, there exist less conventional applications of the technique that can also provide relevant information concerning molecular dynamics, structure and molecular order. In this article we will briefly deal with basic aspects of the technique, its evolution, present-day relevant applications and the last improvements concerning specialized instrumentation.