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Transporting Your NMR Samples to NANUC
by Ryan McKay

We often get requests from users wondering how best to transport their samples. It's always a difficult question of how much protection is required.

For proteins not dissolved and requiring typical solvents (e.g. 90/10 H2O/D2O, or organics like 2H-Benzene or Chloroform) these samples can easily be shipped via Eppendorf tube with appropriate padding in a small box or even a large envelope, then dissolved by the staff here.

For samples that are already in NMR tubes the decision is not as simple.

Figure 1: Stainless steel pipette autoclave box for fragile NMR samples
Transporting in a plastic tube requires transferring the material and volume losses can be quite critical. Transporting in the NMR tube is also a difficult decision due to the fragile nature of the NMR tube (especially during extremely cold weather). One is often faced with the decision to either send the sample in its tube or face the prospect of multiple transfers.

Finding a container with the appropriate strength, length, and weight for transporting the sample in an NMR tube is desirable. Fortunately an ideal container is probably already in your laboratory.

We've found that the VWR cat. No 53570-925 stainless steel transfer pipette holder for autoclave or equivalent from the other manufacturers can be ideal. Normally these are used for the sterilization of the transfer pipettes, but with a little padding from Kimwipes they become solid, light protection for the valuable tube and sample.

These can be shipped in Styrofoam boxes for the case of temperature sensitive samples. The boxes cost around $20 new but there are probably hordes of used examples in your local biological sciences or biochemistry department that someone would undoubtedly be willing to let you borrow for a week or two.

Another option is the Aldrich pocket NMR tube carrier (Product Number: Z28,605-2 plus other colors etc.) which looks a lot like a pen in that it clips to your shirt pocket. It has a snap on cap but unfortunately does not come in lengths over seven inches making it too short for the eight inch tubes preferred for use on the 800 MHz spectrometer.

The most common method is for people to use the original NMR tube box that their tubes arrived in and place this in a larger box with lots of padding. This is bulky and in some cases is not sufficient protection against shock or impact.

As mentioned above, during the colder times of the year please don't send your sample on a Friday as samples shipped on weekends have a tendency to sit out doors for a period of time and can freeze and shatter. We usually try to ship first thing Monday or Thursday morning to make sure the samples make it in the overnight shipments.

Ryan McKay is the Scientific Director & Biomolecular Spectroscopist at NANUC, and can be contacted at

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Transporting Your NMR Samples to NANUC
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