90° and 180° universal rotation (UR) pulses are two of the most important classes of pulses in modern NMR spectroscopy. This article presents a systematic study characterizing the achievable performance of these pulses as functions of bandwidth, pulse length, and tolerance to B(1)-field inhomogeneity/miscalibration. After an evaluation of different quality factors employed in pulse design algorithms based on optimal control theory, resulting pulses are discussed in detail with a special focus on pulse symmetry. The vast majority of resulting BURBOP (broadband universal rotations by optimal control) pulses are either fully symmetric or have one symmetric and one antisymmetric Cartesian rf component, where the importance of the first symmetry has not been demonstrated yet and the latter one matches the symmetry that results from a previously derived construction principle of universal rotation pulses out of point-to-point pulses . Optimized BURBOP pulses are shown to perform better than previously reported UR pulses, resulting in shorter pulse durations for the same quality of broadband rotations. From a comparison of qualities of effective universal rotations, we find that the application of a single optimal refocusing pulse matches or improves the performance of two consecutive inversion pulses in INEPT-like pulse sequence elements of the same total duration.
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