Antonacci, M.A., et al., Depolarization of nuclear spin polarized 129Xe gas by dark rubidium during spin-exchange optical pumping. J Magn Reson, 2017. 279: p. 60-67.
Continuous-flow spin-exchange optical pumping (SEOP) continues to serve as the most widespread method of polarizing 129Xe for magnetic resonance experiments. Unfortunately, continuous-flow SEOP still suffers from as-yet unidentified inefficiencies that prevent the production of large volumes of xenon with a nuclear spin polarization close to theoretically calculated values. In this work we use a combination of ultra-low field nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS) measurements to study the effects of dark Rb vapor on hyperpolarized 129Xe in situ during continuous-flow SEOP. We find that dark Rb vapor in the optical cell outlet has negligible impact on the final 129Xe polarization at typical experimental conditions, but can become significant at higher oven temperatures and lower flow rates. Additionally, in the AAS spectra we also look for a signature of paramagnetic Rb clusters, previously identified as a source of xenon depolarization and a cause for SEOP inefficiency, for which we are able to set an upper limit of 8.3×1015 Rb dimers per cm3.