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A few years ago, just before the pandemic occurred in 2020, the three of us started a collaboration, joining our different fields of expertise. Although all of us are chemists, we developed different experiences since we graduated in chemistry and concluded our PhD studies. Paolo is a physical organic chemist whose main research activity deals with the synthesis and characterization of nanosponges. He teaches the theory and applications of different spectroscopic techniques in organic chemistry, among which NMR plays a key role. Delia is a physical chemist whose primary research interest is in the structural characterization of materials, with a focus on soft matter. She teaches the theory and application of various spectroscopies, among which solid-state NMR techniques with applications in cultural heritage play a pivotal role. Additionally, she is involved in developing innovative teaching strategies. Rino (that is Pellegrino) is a soil chemist teaching soil chemistry, while his research activity is focused on the development of new NMR techniques to be applied in the evaluation of soil quality and the characterization of environmentally relevant materials, among which biochar is one of the most important.

After around thirty years from the start of our activities, once our career and role reached a “steady state”, we were looking for new occasions to reestablish our enthusiasm. Therefore, we had the idea to join all we know to find new possibilities for improving our research and expanding our teaching possibilities. In this view, we have developed different projects by which we are trying to understand how to obtain new environmentally sustainable materials based, e.g., on the combination of nanosponges and biochars to be used in agriculture and on the transformation of production waste, with the aim to reduce the environmental impact of the most common poorly degradable plastics. At the same time, we aimed to achieve new water and soil remediation systems or even to develop new films for food and cultural heritage protection.

The combination of our teaching experiences made us understand that, at least in Italy, where we work, the NMR world’s wideness is underrated. For example, NMR is not considered in any chemistry courses in agriculture studies, while only spectroscopy is taught in the chemistry departments. Moreover, magnetic resonance for imaging seems to be significant only in the medicine courses, while no information at all is provided about fast field cycling (FFC) NMR relaxometry. The latter can be considered the experimental side of the computational chemistry investigating molecular dynamics. Therefore, we decided to project a book where the “classic” NMR spectroscopy,traditionally viewed as the main technique – the sovereign one! – in aiding the molecular structure determination of organic compounds, is analyzed together with other techniques (such as solid-state NMR, FFC NMR relaxometry, MRI and so on), which have been perceived for a long time as niche methods, despite their increasing popularity and their great potential, specifically in addressing problems such as the characterization of porous materials and many complex systems. Fortunately, a more and more widespread consideration and consciousness of the problems related to complex and interdependent systems is likely to impose, in the next few decades, a profound revision of the educational perspectives and a significant innovation in the teaching of spectroscopic characterization methods as well. It is our intention that this book will provide a scholarly overview of the most recent scientific perspectives and handy and reliable guidance for exploring the field of otherwise “exoteric” work instruments, useful for students, self-updating of professionals, technicians, and interested people.

The result of what we had in mind at the beginning of this adventure is the “object” that you, readers, hold in your hands. The three of us know that this book may not satisfy all the readers, as for someone there is something missing, while for someone else something can be written too simplistically. We three are the only ones responsible for the possible inaccuracies and simplistic things you may find herein.

This book is intended for non-specialized people having very different backgrounds. Were we successful? Were we not? This judgment is up to our readers. We hope this book can contribute to understanding the complexity and fascination of a set of techniques all grouped under the name of “Nuclear Magnetic Resonance”.

Pellegrino Conte

Delia Francesca Chillura Martino

Paolo Lo Meo

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