Signal-to-noise ratio in diffusion-ordered spectroscopy: how good is good enough?
Diffusion-ordered NMR spectroscopy (DOSY) constructs multidimensional spectra displaying signal strength as a function of Larmor frequency and of diffusion coefficient from experimental measurements using pulsed field gradient spin or stimulated echoes. Peak positions in the diffusion domain are determined by diffusion coefficients estimated by fitting experimental data to some variant of the Stejskal–Tanner equation, with the peak widths determined by the standard error estimated in the fitting process. The accuracy and reliability of the diffusion domain in DOSY spectra are therefore determined by the uncertainties in the experimental data and thus in part by the signal-to-noise ratio of the experimental spectra measured. Here the Cramér–Rao lower bound, Monte Carlo methods, and experimental data are used to investigate the relationship between signal-to-noise ratio, experimental parameters, and diffusion domain accuracy in 2D DOSY experiments. Experimental results confirm that sources of error other than noise put an upper limit on the improvement in diffusion domain accuracy obtainable by time averaging.