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Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy

Nuclei with an odd mass or odd atomic number have "nuclear spin" (in a similar fashion to the spin of electrons). This includes 1H and 13C (but not 12C). The spins of nuclei are sufficiently different that NMR experiments can be sensitive for only one particular isotope of one particular element.  The NMR behaviour of 1H and 13C nuclei has been exploited by organic chemist since they provide valuable information that can be used to deduce the structure of organic compounds. These will be the focus of our attention.

Since a nucleus is a charged particle in motion, it will develop a magnetic field.  1H and 13C  have nuclear spins of 1/2 and so they behave in a similar fashion to a simple, tiny bar magnet.  In the absence of a magnetic field, these are randomly oriented but when a field is applied they line up parallel to the applied field, either spin aligned or spin opposed.  The  more highly populated state is the lower energy spin state spin aligned situation.  Two schematic  representations of these arrangements are shown below:

effect of an applied magnetic field on nuclear spins


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  Dr. Ian Hunt, Department of Chemistry, University of Calgary