Plant and Soil

, Volume 280, Issue 1–2, pp 209–222 | Cite as

1H NMR Relaxometry in Natural Humous Soil Samples: Insights in Microbial Effects on Relaxation Time Distributions

  • Fabian Jaeger
  • Elisabeth Grohmann
  • Gabriele E. Schaumann


1H NMR relaxometry is applied for the investigation of pore size distributions in geological substrates. The transfer to humous soil samples requires the knowledge of the interplay between soil organic matter, microorganisms and proton relaxation. The goal of this contribution is to give first insights in microbial effects in the 1H NMR relaxation time distribution in the course of hydration of humous soil samples. We observed the development of the transverse relaxation time distribution of the water protons after addition of water to air dried soil samples. Selected samples were treated with cellobiose to enhance microbial activity. Besides the relaxation time distribution, the respiratory activity and the total cell counts were determined as function of hydration time.

Microbial respiratory activities were 2–15 times higher in the treated samples and total cell counts increased in all samples from 1×109 to 5×109 cells g−1 during hydration. The results of 1H NMR relaxometry showed tri-, bi- and mono-modal relaxation time distributions and shifts of peak relaxation times towards lower relaxation times of all investigated soil samples during hydration. Furthermore, we found lower relaxation times and merging of peaks in soil samples with higher microbial activity. Dissolution and hydration of cellobiose had no detectable effect on the relaxation time distributions during hydration. We attribute the observed shifts in relaxation time distributions to changes in pore size distribution and changes in spin relaxation mechanisms due to dissolution of organic and inorganic substances (e.g. Fe3+, Mn2+), swelling of soil organic matter (SOM), production and release of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) and bacterial association within biofilms.


1H NMR relaxometry extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) soil microorganisms soil organic matter (SOM) 



Proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance


initial mean surface relaxivity

\(d_{\rm pore}={4V_0\over S_0}\)

pore diameter of a cylindrical pore (Hinedi et al., 1997)

\({\overline T}_2\)

initial mean relaxation time

\(\rho_i={\lambda\over T_{iS}}\)

surface relaxivity


initial mean pore diameter; λ–layer thickness, in which TiS takes place




mean pore diameter estimated from BET data


Dissolved Organic Carbon


extracellular polymeric substances


polygalacturonic acid


water covered pore surface


specific surface area estimated from BET data


soil organic matter


hydration time [days], τ–time constant of the first order process [days]


relaxation time of the longitudinal (i=1) or transverse (i=2) relaxation of proton magnetization


bulk relaxation time


surface relaxation time


water filled pore volume


replacement character for the peak relaxation time [ms]


peak relaxation time for infinite hydration time


initial value for t=0.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fabian Jaeger
    • 1
  • Elisabeth Grohmann
    • 2
  • Gabriele E. Schaumann
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental ChemistryUniversity of Technology BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of Environmental MicrobiologyUniversity of Technology BerlinBerlinGermany

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