THUNDER BAY – Researchers at Lakehead University have a powerful new tool at their disposal.
The Thunder Bay school recently received a $515,535 grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation toward the $1.54-million cost to purchase and install a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, which scientists can use to analyze the chemical structure of various materials.
The new device will replace a two-decade-old machine that had reached the end of its operational life.
Chemical engineering professor Pedram Fatehi plans to use the machine to help develop value-added products from forest biomass.
“Basically this machine gives us the means to do lots of studies to make new green, wood-based chemicals that can be used in the mining industry, in the food industry, the oil industry and the construction industry,” Fatehi said.
“We can produce a lot of chemicals, but in order to study their structure, to see what we’ve produced, we need this machine.”
In layman’s terms, the NMR allows researchers, without destroying the sample, to characterize the structure and dynamics of molecules. The new device, which has yet to be installed, also permits users to investigate complex chemical systems, particularly those containing silicon.
“We have to know how these molecules interact with each other, what the structure is of the material, so that we can predict and design new chemicals that have many, many applications,” Fatehi said.
Stephen Kinrade, a professor in the department of chemistry at Lakehead, will use the NMR to study silicon and its potential applications in both materials science and medicine.
“This equipment will also enable hands-on research training in NMR spectroscopy to all chemistry students as well as to students in other programs, such as biology, geology and chemical engineering,” Kinrade said, in a release issued by the school.