NMR Spectroscopy

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR) is an analytical method used for determining the structure of unknown organic compounds. Different NMR techniques include 1H NMR, 13C NMR, and two-dimensional HSQC. NMR is the definitive method for measuring the atomic composition and structure of organic molecules.

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What is the basic principle of NMR spectroscopy?

NMR utilizes the ability of spinning nuclei to resonate with a certain magnetic field as a result of the magnetic properties of the atom's core and core electrons to survey the chemical environment of the atom. The nuclei of some atoms spin and others do not. The spinning nuclei include, for example, 1H and 13C, which is why they can be utilized in NMR analyses (1H NMR and 13C NMR, respectively). Other spinning nuclei can also be used in an NMR analysis, but hydrogen and carbon are the two most commonly applied because of their common existence in most organic compounds.

In general, all moving charged particles generate a magnetic field. When a sample including spinning nuclei of interest is placed between the two poles of a powerful magnet in the NMR spectroscope, a strong magnetic field goes through the sample. The magnetic field causes a perturbation in the atoms of the sample, which leads to a change in the spins of their electrons.

This change of the spin is called electron relaxation and it is unique for every element. As a result, the spinning nuclei of the atoms are charged electrically and they start to behave like magnets. Therefore, the spinning nuclei align with or against the applied magnetic field creating an energy difference. Then, a fixed radio frequency is used to change the magnetic field to even out the energy differences. When the energies match, the nuclei can change spin states meaning they can resonate and give off a magnetic signal detected by the NMR machine. Based on the characteristic electron relaxations of elements, the structure of the molecules in the sample can be determined.

What is NMR analysis used for?

NMR is an efficient tool in organic chemistry and quality control of different industries, as it can provide detailed information about the composition of the sample. NMR gives in-depth information about the functional groups of molecules and different isotopes of atoms. Also, the intermolecular interactions, such as small protein-ligand interactions, biomolecular dynamics as well as low-transient and low-affinity complexes can be studied with NMR.

The result of, for example, a 1H NMR analysis is a spectrum of a certain organic compound that provides a lot of information about the compound. The number of signals corresponds to the number of chemically different types of hydrogen nuclei in the molecule. The position of these signals represents the chemical shifts and they reveal what kind of chemical environment each of the nuclei is in. The relative areas under these signals (obtained by integration) tell how many hydrogens of each type there are in the molecule. Lastly, the splitting pattern reveals the number of neighboring hydrogens for each individual hydrogen atom.

In this way, information about the type, quantity, and arrangement of the atoms in organic molecules can be obtained with NMR. Based on this information, a high-resolution structure of the molecule of interest can be created. 3D structures of complex biomolecules can also be produced.

What kinds of samples are suitable for NMR analysis?

Solid and liquid samples can be analyzed with NMR, and both small and large compounds can be studied. Special sample preparation is not usually necessary: samples are only diluted to a suitable NMR solvent in order to achieve a liquid form for the analysis.

Suitable sample matrices

  • Fine chemicals
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Polymers
  • Proteins
  • Food samples
  • Materials with NMR-active nuclei

Ideal uses of NMR spectroscopy

  • Determining the composition (types and amounts of elements) of organic samples
  • Determination of the structure of organic samples
  • Characterization of polymers, including structure, co-monomer ratios, end groups, and average molecular weight (MW)
  • Sample purity determination

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Frequently asked questions

What is NMR spectroscopy used for?

NMR analysis can offer detailed information about the composition of organic materials. With the help of the analytical method, a high-resolution structure of the molecule can be created, showing the type, quantity, and arrangement of the atoms in it. NMR is often used in organic chemistry and can be used as a quality control method in various other industries as well.

What are the limitations of NMR analysis?

NMR samples need to be soluble in a deuterated solvent. Interpretation of the spectrum requires an experienced scientist and data collection can be time-consuming (e.g. 13C NMRs are usually run overnight).

Which samples are suitable for NMR analysis?

Both solid and liquid samples are suitable for NMR analysis. Solid samples need to be soluble in a deuterated NMR solvent before the analysis. Both small and large compounds can be analyzed with the method.

What is Measurlabs?

Measurlabs offers a variety of laboratory analyses for product developers and quality managers. We perform some of the analyses in our own lab, but mostly we outsource them to carefully selected partner laboratories. This way we can send each sample to the lab that is best suited for the purpose, and offer high-quality analyses with more than a thousand different methods to our clients.

How does the service work?

When you contact us through our contact form or by email, one of our specialists will take ownership of your case and answer your query. You get an offer with all the necessary details about the analysis, and can send your samples to the indicated address. We will then take care of sending your samples to the correct laboratories and write a clear report on the results for you.

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