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Black Forest Focus on Soft Matter 6: 
Magnetic Resonance Microsystems

Date: 26-29 July 2011


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Videos of the talks



Scientific Coordinators:

  • Jan G. Korvink, FRIAS, University of Freiburg, Germany
  • Jürgen Hennig, Department of Radiology, Freiburg University Clinic, Germany
  • Ulrike Wallrabe, IMTEK, University of Freiburg, Germany
  • Marcel Utz, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, University of Virginia, USA
  • Vlad Badilita, IMTEK, University of Freiburg, Germany




The workshop is supported by

Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter (ICAM)

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The banquet of the workshop is kindly sponsored by

Bruker AG, Ettlingen

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The workshop has focused on miniaturization issues of magnetic resonance equipment and experiments:

  • Theory, methods, needs, requirements
  • Generally applicable strategies for signal enhancement (chemically induced polarization, isotopic labeling, EPR/NMR, Optical pumping)
  • Non-Boltzmann distributions
  • Scanning probe systems
  • Miniaturization of sensors, magnets, spinning equipment, sample handling, systems
  • Integration and microfabrication with NMR compatible materials
  • Susceptibility broadening
  • High-throughput approaches for medical diagnostic applications
  • Parallelization: sensor arrays, high throughput, chip lab integration
  • Phased-array receivers (spatial multiplexing of signals acquisition)
  • High-sensitivity functional brain imaging
  • Unusual samples



Nuclear magnetic resonance has emerged, since its inception in the 1940's, as a powerful technique for exploring the structure and properties of soft materials, and for answering questions across the length scales, from molecular to macroscopic structure and function. Nuclear magnetic resonance is one of the most flexible and widely used analytical tools in the physical and life sciences. In spite of the fact that the basic principles have been around for some time, the field continues to undergo rapid advance. The quest for stonger polarising magnetic fields (20 T superconducting magnets are now commercially available) often shadows the fact that miniaturization of NMR equipment promises great advances in measurement sensitivity, and offers the possibility to investigate very small samples. Scaling down also offers new opportunities to perform unique measurements, and to explore unchartered aspects of NMR theory.
Despite the importance of miniaturization, very few events have focused on this area (mainly under the term "microscopy"), and to our knowledge (and partially based on the response to our invitations to the conference,) it is percieved by the community as very timely to bring together NMR theorists, practitioners, and micro- and nano-technologists active in the area.
For the detection of NMR signals, three avenues are currently at the focus: free induction decay measurements based on coils or waveguides, magnetometers, and magnetic resonance force microscopy (a similar technique to the atomic force microscope). The techniques allow interactions with very small liquid and solid samples of soft materials, and enable the combination of NMR with other experiments, such as plastic yielding, or flow, or in-vivo in cells, etc. The techniques can be combined in new ways with existing approaches of NMR signal enhancement, such as cooling, use of contrast agents, spin hyperpolarization, sample spinning, sequence design, and lab-on-a-chip.
Particularly lively areas of progress are the study of bio-molecular dynamics, complex structural analysis in the solid state, real time imaging, as well as the miniaturization of both NMR equipment and samples. This latter area stands out because innovation is driven critically by the interaction of researchers with diverse backgrounds, including physics, chemistry, engineering, biology, and the medical sciences. Many potential applications of miniaturized NMR spectroscopy and imaging will have substantial impact on society. For example, diagnostic devices based on microfluidic metabolic analysis of body fluids could become a major tool for prophylactic medicine. Similarly, recent advances in micro-NMR imaging are leading towards resolution of living tissues at the cellular or even sub-cellular level. Integrated, micro fabricated receiver systems are emerging that will take the study of brain function to a completely new level.
All these examples, their apparent diversity notwithstanding, face some common scientific and technical challenges. Sensitivity is a perennial problem in magnetic resonance, and gets exacerbated at small scales. The handling of radiofrequency signals in small-scale devices often presents challenges, as does the loss in spectral resolution due to magnetic susceptibility inhomogeneity. Motivated by the potential applications, many research groups are developing innovative approaches to deal with these challenges. We believe the time is critical to bring together researchers representing science, engineering, as well as applications to form a new scientific community and share their ideas, findings, and, perhaps most importantly, challenges.



Hotel Saigerhöh (, Saig/Titisee, Black Forest, Germany (close to Freiburg)