Rossini, A.J., et al., Dynamic Nuclear Polarization Surface Enhanced NMR Spectroscopy. Acc. Chem. Res., 2013.
Many of the functions and applications of advanced materials result from their interfacial structures and properties. However, the difficulty in characterizing the surface structure of these materials at an atomic level can often slow their further development. Solid-state NMR can probe surface structure and complement established surface science techniques, but its low sensitivity often limits its application. Many materials have low surface areas and/or low concentrations of active/surface sites. Dynamic nuclear polarization (DNP) is one intriguing method to enhance the sensitivity of solid-state NMR experiments by several orders of magnitude. In a DNP experiment, the large polarization of unpaired electrons is transferred to surrounding nuclei, which provides a maximum theoretical DNP enhancement of approximately 658 for 1H NMR. In this Account, we discuss the application of DNP to enhance surface NMR signals, an approach known as DNP surface enhanced NMR spectroscopy (DNP SENS). Enabling DNP for these systems requires bringing an exogeneous radical solution into contact with surfaces without diluting the sample. We proposed the incipient wetness impregnation technique (IWI), a well-known method in materials science, to impregnate porous and particulate materials with just enough radical containing solution to fill the porous volume. IWI offers several advantages: it is extremely simple, provides a uniform wetting of the surface, and does not increase the sample volume or substantially reduce the concentration of the sample. This Account describes the basic principles behind DNP SENS through results obtained for mesoporous and nanoparticulate samples impregnated with radical solutions. We also discuss the quantification of the overall sensitivity enhancements obtained with DNP SENS and compare that with ordinary room temperature NMR spectroscopy. We then review the development of radicals and solvents that give the best possible enhancements today. With the best polarizing mixtures, DNP SENS enhances sensitivity by a factor of up to 100, which decreases acquisition time by five orders of magnitude. Such enhancement enables the detailed and expedient atomic level characterization of the surfaces of complex materials at natural isotopic abundance and opens new avenues for NMR. To illustrate these improvements, we describe the successful application of DNP SENS to characterize hybrid materials, organometallic surface species, and metal-organic frameworks.