MRI of chemical reactions and processes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Colleges, School and Institutes


As magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can spatially resolve a wealth of molecular information available from nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), it is able to non-invasively visualise the composition, properties and reactions of a broad range of spatially-heterogeneous molecular systems. Hence, MRI is increasingly finding applications in the study of chemical reactions and processes in a diverse range of environments and technologies. This article will explain the basic principles of MRI and how it can be used to visualise chemical composition and molecular properties, providing an overview of the variety of information available. Examples are drawn from the disciplines of chemistry, chemical engineering, environmental science, physics, electrochemistry and materials science. The review introduces a range of techniques used to produce image contrast, along with the chemical and molecular insight accessible through them. Methods for mapping the distribution of chemical species, using chemical shift imaging or spatially-resolved spectroscopy, are reviewed, as well as methods for visualising physical state, temperature, current density, flow velocities and molecular diffusion. Strategies for imaging materials with low signal intensity, such as those containing gases or low sensitivity nuclei, using compressed sensing, para-hydrogen or polarisation transfer, are discussed. Systems are presented which encapsulate the diversity of chemical and physical parameters observable by MRI, including one- and two-phase flow in porous media, chemical pattern formation, phase transformations and hydrodynamic (fingering) instabilities. Lastly, the emerging area of electrochemical MRI is discussed, with studies presented on the visualisation of electrochemical deposition and dissolution processes during corrosion and the operation of batteries, supercapacitors and fuel cells.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-70
JournalProgress in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
Early online date30 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017