Edwards, D.T., et al., Distance measurements across randomly distributed nitroxide probes from the temperature dependence of the electron spin phase memory time at 240GHz. J. Magn. Reson., 2012. 223(0): p. 198-206.
At 8.5 T, the polarization of an ensemble of electron spins is essentially 100% at 2 K, and decreases to 30% at 20 K. The strong temperature dependence of the electron spin polarization between 2 and 20 K leads to the phenomenon of spin bath quenching: temporal fluctuations of the dipolar magnetic fields associated with the energy-conserving spin “flip-flop” process are quenched as the temperature of the spin bath is lowered to the point of nearly complete spin polarization. This work uses pulsed electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) at 240 GHz to investigate the effects of spin bath quenching on the phase memory times (TM) of randomly-distributed ensembles of nitroxide molecules below 20 K at 8.5 T. For a given electron spin concentration, a characteristic, dipolar flip-flop rate (W) is extracted by fitting the temperature dependence of TM to a simple model of decoherence driven by the spin flip-flop process. In frozen solutions of 4-Amino-TEMPO, a stable nitroxide radical in a deuterated water–glass, a calibration is used to quantify average spin–spin distances as large as <r> = 6.6 nm from the dipolar flip-flop rate. For longer distances, nuclear spin fluctuations, which are not frozen out, begin to dominate over the electron spin flip-flop processes, placing an effective ceiling on this method for nitroxide molecules. For a bulk solution with a three-dimensional distribution of nitroxide molecules at concentration n, we find W ∝ n ∝ 1 / r ¯ 3 , which is consistent with magnetic dipolar spin interactions. Alternatively, we observe W ∝ n 3 2 for nitroxides tethered to a quasi two-dimensional surface of large (Ø ∼ 200 nm), unilamellar, lipid vesicles, demonstrating that the quantification of spin bath quenching can also be used to discern the geometry of molecular assembly or organization.