Campus News

National Science Foundation grant will be used to bring state-of-the-art spectrometer to campus

UGA soon will be home to a new state-of-the-art spectrometer that will benefit researchers across campus and beyond. The instrument, known as an electron paramagnetic resonance spectrometer, is funded by a nearly $350,000 grant through the National Science Foundation’s Major Research Instrumentation program.

“The MRI program serves to increase access to multi-user scientific and engineering instrumentation for research and training in our nation’s institutions of higher education and not-for-profit scientific and engineering research organizations,” said Todd Harrop, associate professor of chemistry and principal investigator for the grant. He applied for the grant with Regents Professor of Chemistry Michael Johnson as co-principal ­investigator.

NSF awards MRI grants so universities or institutions can acquire research instruments that can be used throughout the university community that might be too costly otherwise. The EPR, according to the grant ­application, plays a significant role in an array of potential research endeavors on campus.

EPR plays a crucial role in identifying and characterizing species with unpaired electrons such as paramagnets and free radicals in fields ranging from chemistry and materials science to nanotechnology, biology and medicine. The instrument stands to impact research university-wide.

The EPR spectrometer, which will arrive on campus in a few months after it’s been built to specifications, has major benefits over older versions that exist on campus currently.

“An EPR spectrometer yields detailed information on the geometric and electronic structure of molecular and solid-state materials, and it is used to obtain information about the lifetime of free radicals, short-lived, highly reactive species involved in valuable chemical transformations and the initiation of pathological tumor growth,” said Harrop. “The majority of the measurements with the current equipment are made at extremely cold temperatures which require the use of liquid helium, an expensive and depleting resource. The new instrument, however, is not only updated with better software and electronics, but also uses a helium recirculating system so that cryogens, such as liquid helium, are no longer required. It is essentially a ‘walk-up’ instrument.”

More than 25 researchers, from at least eight departments and five colleges, already plan to use this instrument in their research, but as a result of the ease of use of the new equipment and low cost, the equipment will also enhance educational opportunities for students on campus, as use of the instrument will be included in undergraduate and graduate curricula in the future.

While the NSF grant provides for most of the cost of the nearly $500,000 piece of equipment, the grant requires that the university or institution share the cost for MRI program grants.

“It’s an honor to receive this grant because only 17 percent of proposals were funded in the past award year,” said Harrop. “Each institution can only submit two grant proposals for an MRI grant each year, and UGA has not received one in nearly 10 years. With nearly 850 proposals submitted this year, we are proud to have been chosen to receive the grant and are excited to see how this advances research here at UGA.”