Monday, December 4, 2023

C&EN: Whither older NMRs

Great article by Celia Henry Arnaud in this week's C&EN about Varian NMRs, including this bit of speculation: 
While researchers deal with the practical ramifications of Agilent’s exit, WUSTL’s Hayes is considering the broader implications. “I think we might see changes, because what this has shown is that it’s like a single-point-of-failure model. We are now in a situation where hardware with very high capital equipment costs is purchased, only to learn that the company may choose not to be in this business within a year or two thereafter,” she says.

NMR instruments are unique in their longevity, Hayes notes. “In many cases we have been fortunate as a department to keep them for 20 or 30 years. So what do you do in terms of robust decision-making when the landscape for vendors of such equipment is so uncertain?”

Hayes predicts that in the next decade or two there could be a shift toward benchtop instruments for routine analysis in synthesis labs—both to avoid the large purchases and to circumvent difficulties with the helium market. But until then, she adds, “every research-oriented chemistry department needs an NMR—at least one, if not two.”

Is anyone actively moving towards benchtop NMRs in synthetic chemistry? I'd love to know if this is happening... 


  1. First of all, Agilent exited the manufacturing of NMRs but they still carried support and parts for a good 5 years after, iirc. I think they fully exited NMR support around 2019-2021 ish.

    We attempted to use the Thermo PicoSpin NMRs but the resolution on them is so horrible that it was virtually useless for 99.9999% of everything we did. Not too sure what kind of resolution gains are being made in this front.

    But I've been fortunate to use old Varians, newer Agilents, JEOL, and all kinds of Brukers. Bruker NMRs are simply superior in every way. Unfortunately, their price and support come at a much higher premium than the competitors.

  2. Our site's QC department received one of the last 500MHz NMR spectrometers that Agilent produced. In fact, Agilent announced their departure from the business (I think) a day after the purchase of the instrument was finalized. I am told that the instrument is now serviced by an ex-employee from Agilent that started up a business for that purpose.
    A few years back our group purchased a bench top NMR from Magritek. It is in our department but in a different building onsite, so I have only used it once or twice. A lot of good work has been done on that instrument in our flow-chemistry group to monitor reactions in-situ. Routine reaction progress checks and real time elevated temperature stability studies have been run as well. It works well for the simple structure organometallic molecules we need to make.

  3. My experience with a benchtop NMR (a Nanalysis 100 MHz) is that it's definitely a trade-off. Which is what you'd expect. It's something like 250 pounds, mostly the magnets, with a decent autoshim program but it doesn't spin the sample, so you generally get lower resolution. Which is fine for the kind of work I do (highly symmetric small molecules with no stereochemistry) but not if you've got lots of stereochemistry, complicated bonding, lots of heteroatoms, things like that. As a first pass instrument it's fine but I wouldn't want to publish with just its spectra. Probably would still have to go get some instrument time at the local university. But in a lab where my analytical tools are basically that NMR, a FTIR, TLC, and sometimes UV, I'll take what I can get.

    It's also really picky about temperature stability, which was a recurring issue in a building that is basically a converted warehouse. But now that it's locked in, pretty much all I have to do is run the full shimming program once a week or so and otherwise shim it before samples as normal. That it doesn't require a priesthood to keep it working and happy is a definite plus.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20