Chasing Rays Blog

Bruker InsightMR Ascend 400 NMR Spectrometer

InsightMR: Bruker UK Ltd

At the start of November, I was most privileged to be able to go to Bruker UK Ltd. to do some product photography. In this case, Bruker’s mighty Ascend 400 NMR spectrometer.
"At the start of November, I was most privileged to be able to go to Bruker UK to do some product photography. In this case, Bruker’s mighty Ascend 400 NMR spectrometer…"

The Ascend system is an impressive piece of kit. It is a 400 MHz NMR spectrometer that barely stands taller than myself, with a gauss limit inside its own footprint. With appropriate hardware attachments and a reaction vessel, one can use the InsightMR software suite to analyse and follow reaction dynamics in realtime.

This is in addition to standard NMR analysis, using postbox or carousel-type sample delivery systems so, in all, a true host of features and accessories.

From a personal point of view, I was most impressed with the highly limited spacial extent of the gauss limit, which meant I could get my camera within a handspan or so of the spectrometer casing without my gear being snatched out of my hand by the intense magnetic fields required to do NMR analysis.

Not only this, but when I first encountered NMR during my Chemistry degree, about 20 years ago now, an equivalent spectrometer had to have its own room to contain/ mitigate the risk of the magnetic field. Back then, your credit cards were unsafe if you got within a few meters of the magnet, and woe betide you if you had a pacemaker or a steel hip replacement!

The story from my undergraduate years is that a workman walked into the NMR room with an unsecured spanner, to have it ripped out of his pocket, and to whip across open space to go slamming up against the superconducting magnets… and apparently he had the nerve to ask for it back! (He was told – in no uncertain terms – to come back in three months when the magnets were next scheduled for maintenance.)

Comparing this with the apparatus I had just been commissioned to photograph, it’s clear just how much magnet and shielding technology has come on in just 20 years. And the whole thing barely reached above my head!

A vastly impressive piece of kit, from a scientific point of view.

I was commissioned to photograph not just the spectrometer, but also the NMR tube that has been adapted for following reaction dynamics. I was to produce photos for use in brochures, webinars and other talks.

My first inclination was to gel one speedlight, coupled to my camera via a Phottix Odin transmitter and receiver, to the corporate shade of Bruker blue, and to use this as the background wash to some of the images you can see in my mini-gallery below.

The second speedlight, as main light, was in a Lastolite softbox and was used to provide the overall exposure. The lab itself was fairly dark, and the ambient light there fairly flat, so it made sense all round to use the speedlights as the main source of light, both from an exposure and quality and directional point of view.

Both speedlights were set to manual, and had their exposure values adjusted entirely manually, which makes sense in such as static situation. Flash exposures were adjusted as necessary depending on the accessory or piece of equipment being photographed.

So I got to combine two of my greatest passions in life: science and photography. Not bad for a single day.

All the best,

Chasing Rays Photography.




Hardware Used


About the Author

Mark Watkins

Mark WatkinsI've been a photographer since 2006 and a computer fanatic since 1995. I hope to share my passion for photography with you through the products and services I offer through my website. See me on Google+ | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedInView all posts by Mark Watkins →

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