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  1. Nuclear spin relaxation mechanisms are often difficult to isolate and identify, especially in molecules with internal flexibility. Here we combine experimental work with computation in order to determine the major mechanisms responsible for 31 P spin–lattice and singlet order (SO) relaxation in pyrophosphate, a physiologically relevant molecule. Using field-shuttling relaxation measurements (from 2 μT to 9.4 T) and rates calculated from molecular dynamics (MD) trajectories, we identified chemical shift anisotropy (CSA) and spin–rotation as the major mechanisms, with minor contributions from intra- and intermolecular coupling. The significant spin–rotation interaction is a consequence of the relatively rapid rotation of the –PO 3 2− entities around the bridging P–O bonds, and is treated by a combination of MD simulations and quantum chemistry calculations. Spin–lattice relaxation was predicted well without adjustable parameters, and for SO relaxation one parameter was extracted from the comparison between experiment and computation (a correlation coefficient between the rotational motion of the groups). 
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  2. Nuclear spin singlet states are often found to allow long-lived storage of nuclear magnetization, which can form the basis of novel applications in spectroscopy, imaging, and in studies of dynamic processes. Precisely how long such polarization remains intact, and which factors affect its lifetime is often difficult to determine and predict. We present a combined experimental/computational study to demonstrate that molecular dynamics simulations and ab initio calculations can be used to fully account for the experimentally observed proton singlet lifetimes in ethyl-d 5 -propyl-d 7 -maleate in deuterated chloroform as solvent. The correspondence between experiment and simulations is achieved without adjustable parameters. These studies highlight the importance of considering unusual and difficult-to-control mechanisms, such as dipolar couplings to low-gamma solvent nuclei, and to residual paramagnetic species, which often can represent lifetime limiting factors. These results also point to the power of molecular dynamics simulations to provide insights into little-known NMR relaxation mechanisms. 
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  3. A variety of pulse sequences have been described for converting nuclear spin magnetisation into long-lived singlet order for nuclear spin-1/2 pairs. Existing sequences operate well in two extreme parameter regimes. The magnetisation-to-singlet (M2S) pulse sequence performs a robust conversion of nuclear spin magnetisation into singlet order in the near-equivalent limit, meaning that the difference in chemical shift frequencies of the two spins is much smaller than the spin–spin coupling. Other pulse sequences operate in the strong-inequivalence regime, where the shift difference is much larger than the spin–spin coupling. However both sets of pulse sequences fail in the intermediate regime, where the chemical shift difference and the spin–spin coupling are roughly equal in magnitude. We describe a generalised version of M2S, called gM2S, which achieves robust singlet order excitation for spin systems ranging from the near-equivalence limit well into the intermediate regime. This closes an important gap left by existing pulse sequences. The efficiency of the gM2S sequence is demonstrated numerically and experimentally for near-equivalent and intermediate-regime cases. 
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