Los Alamos National Labs with logo 2021

Security Through Signatures

Identifying hazardous chemicals through their subtle atomic-level interactions.
February 1, 2019
Six blue, green, and pink travel-size bottles standing in a row.

What’s in the bottle? Recent advances in identifying chemical signatures could usher in a new way to figure it out.

We are able to see these unique interactions using only the earth’s 50-microtesla magnetic field.

Los Alamos scientists are refining a method to identify chemical compounds by studying how the atoms behave in a magnetic field. Based on their observations of a phenomenon called J-coupling, which happens when the nuclei of neighboring atoms in molecules interact, the team has devised a way to rapidly identify unknown samples using ultra-low field nuclear magnetic resonance.

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