Through the Chemical Looking Glass: What MRI can tell us about molecular processes in consumer products, engineering and batteries

The University of Birmingham's Dr Melanie Britton’s research is at the interface between chemistry, chemical engineering and physics. Melanie is presenting some of her research to Leeds' SMP group.

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is widely employed to determine molecular structure and dynamics by using the signals of NMR active nuclei contained within a molecule.  When NMR measurements are performed in the presence of magnetic field gradients, the NMR signal becomes spatially-dependent, resulting in images (MRI), with a spatial resolution in the order of 10-100 μm, as well as measurements of molecular flow and diffusion.  As such, NMR is uniquely able to provide an integrated, non-destructive view of the structure, dynamics, and function of molecular systems where spectroscopic information at the atomic level can be integrated with information at the mesoscopic and macroscopic length scales via NMR imaging and diffusion methods1. The synergy between these two modalities enables MR techniques to probe the broadest range of systems, many of which not accessible via other analytical techniques.

While MRI is a well-established analytical technique in biomedical research and clinical diagnosis, its ability to visualise the composition and behaviour of molecular materials is making it increasingly useful to study spatially-heterogeneous chemical systems in a diverse range of applications, including fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), pharma, manufacturing, materials science, reaction engineering, food technology, catalysis and energy storage. In this talk I will demonstrate how MRI can be used to visualize battery chemistry2, corrosion3 and electroplating in situ and under working conditions. I will explore the development of ionic liquids and deep eutectic solvents as novel electrolytes in these applications. I will explain how quantitative information can be extracted from images, which have led to enhanced understanding of phase stability in surfactant solutions4 and reaction engineering.


[1]Britton, M. M., MRI of chemical reactions and processes. Progress in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy 2017, 101, 51-70.

[2]Bray, J. M.; Doswell, C. L.; Pavlovskaya, G. E.; Chen, L.; Kishore, B.; Au, H.; Alptekin, H.; Kendrick, E.; Titirici, M. M.; Meersmann, T.; Britton, M. M., Operando visualisation of battery chemistry in a sodium-ion battery by Na-23 magnetic resonance imaging. Nat. Commun. 2020, 11 (1), 2083.

[3]Bray, J. M.; Davenport, A. J.; Ryder, K. S.; Britton, M. M., Quantitative, In Situ Visualization of Metal-Ion Dissolution and Transport Using H-1 Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2016, 55 (32), 9394-9397.

[4] Thompson, E. S.; Declercq, M.; Saveyn, P.; Guida, V.; Robles, E. S. J.; Britton, M. M., Phase separation and collapse in almost density matched depletion induced colloidal gels in presence and absence of air bubbles: An MRI imaging study. J Colloid Interface Sci 2020, 582 (Pt A), 201-211.

Host: Professor Mike Ries