The School of Chemistry is housed in two large, purpose-designed buildings and is exceptionally well equipped. A building specially devoted to synthetic chemistry, complete with state-of-the-art laboratories and fumehoods, was opened in December 1999.

Our strong research profile is sustained by a world class equipment and instrument infrastructure offering researchers access to a wide range of analytical and visualisation techniques and associated technical expertise. Some examples of the many analytical techniques fundamental to the research carried out here are given below.

We welcome enquiries from industrialists who might wish to use these services.  Please contact our industrial services team for further information.

NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance)

The School of Chemistry is one of the best equipped in the UK, with 10 solution-state NMR spectrometers (rising to 12 by the end of 2014) used for research and undergraduate teaching, as well as being available for industrial use.

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400 and 500MHz NMR spectrometers

The Bristol Chemical NMR Facility operates across 300-500MHz and is one of the best equipped labs in the UK - to be supplemented in late 2014 with a 500MHz instrument equipped with a 13C-cryogenic probe. As well as using cutting-edge 1H- and 13C-based NMR methods and acquisition software for the study of organic and organometallic species, "multinuclear" experiments are routinely carried out typically on 11B, 19F, 31P, transition metal and numerous other nuclei.

The Bristol Biological NMR facility is equipped with two Varian/Agilent 600 MHz spectrometers equipped with a salt-tolerant 13C-enhanced triple resonance cryo-probe and a 1H,13C capillary flow probe and liquid handling robot. The facility is involved in tackling projects that impact on human health, including structural biology, supramolecular chemistry, medicinal chemistry and compound screening. The science base is both publicly and industrially funded and there is a strong drive to increase further industrial collaboration.

We also house the University of Bristol NMR Metabolomics Facility, in collaboration with the Department of Social and Community Medicine, comprising 500MHz and 600MHz ultra-high throughput NMR systems (the latter to be installed in 2014 and equipped with a liquid-nitrogen cryogenic probe).

Multinuclear NMR

As well as being the first-choice technique for characterisation of new organic compounds, the NMR facilities at Bristol are also used for studying 11B 31P 19F and a wide variety of transition metal nucleii.

Mass spectrometry

As well as providing routine mass spectral analysis, the mass spectrometry laboratory, is also home to more advanced applications development and non-routine analysis. The facility works closely with the neighborouring NERC Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry Facility.

Weighing molecules

The idea of using magnetic field to separate ions of different masses has been around for about a century. Recent developments allow us to do this for ever more complex molecules. The mass spectrometry facilities at Bristol enable us to look at molecular ions and frangemtation patterns for almost any species including biological samples that were, until a few years ago, impossible to study using these techniques.

X-ray crystallography

A purpose-built crystallography laboratory houses 3 single crystal diffractometers and one powder diffractometer.

All of the single crystal diffractometers are equipped with modern kappa-geometry goniometers. Two of these have conventional fixed Mo-anode X-ray tubes and are used for routine samples. The third is a very high intensity rotating Cu-anode instrument with beam focussing optics and a large format area detector. This instrument is used for studying weakly diffracting, disordered and twinned crystals with results second only to those that could be obtained at a synchrotron source. The School of Biochemistry also routinely use this instrument for protein crystallography.

The laboratory also houses a high throughput powder X-ray diffractometer equipped with a linear detector, robotic sample changer and 30 silicon wafer sample holders. This allows powder diffraction data for a sub-milligram quantity of sample to be collected in minutes.

Crystal selection using optical microscopy

Crystal selection using optical microscopy

Electron and scanning probe microscopy

The Electron and Scanning Probe Microscopy Unit provides solutions for imaging and analysis at the nanoscale (from the micron down to the angstrom range).

AFM image of delaminated clay platelets on mica

AFM image of delaminated clay platelets on mica

The unit houses two scanning electron microscopes, two scanning probe microscopes and three transmission electron microscopes.  The electron microscopes in the main suite are all fitted with energy dispersive X-ray analysis systems and digital image capture. Ancillary facilities and techniques include:

  • Vacuum coating (C and Pt/Pd, Au)
  • Ultramicrotomy
  • Critical point drying and freeze-drying
  • Cryo stage for TEM

Both modular SPM microscopes are capable of atomic resolution. We can perform standard scanning tunnelling, contact- and tapping-mode imaging in a range of liquid and gas environments with thermal control. Other techniques available include:

  • TUNA conductive AFM
  • Picoforce force measurement spectroscopy
  • Scanning capitance microscopy
  • Electrochemical AFM
  • Magnetic imaging
  • Torsional, lateral and friction force imaging

The art of nanochemistry

The wealth of techniques provided by a well equipped Electron Microscopy lab enable us to answer that most fundamental of questions: 'what does it look like?' As well as being informative, the results are often visually stunning. Some of the images obtained have even won competitions on the grounds of artistic merit!

A TEM image if gold nanoparticles An STM image of a graphene layer An AFM image of a hydrophobin layer