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Organic Chemistry Text Book (CHEM 3401 and 3402)

15.1.2g Spin-Spin Interactions

The nmr spectrum of 1,1-dichloroethane (below right) is more complicated than we might have expected from the previous examples. Unlike its 1,2-dichloro-isomer (below left), which displays a single resonance signal from the four structurally equivalent hydrogens, the two signals from the different hydrogens are split into close groupings of two or more resonances. This is a common feature in the spectra of compounds having different sets of hydrogen atoms bonded to adjacent carbon atoms. The signal splitting in proton spectra is usually small, ranging from fractions of a Hz to as much as 18 Hz, and is designated as J (referred to as the coupling constant). In the 1,1-dichloroethane example all the coupling constants are 6.0 Hz, as illustrated by clicking on the spectrum.







The splitting patterns found in various spectra are easily recognized, provided the chemical shifts of the different sets of hydrogen that generate the signals differ by two or more ppm. The patterns are symmetrically distributed on both sides of the proton chemical shift, and the central lines are always stronger than the outer lines. The most commonly observed patterns have been given descriptive names, such as doublet (two equal intensity signals), triplet (three signals with an intensity ratio of 1:2:1) and quartet (a set of four signals with intensities of 1:3:3:1). Four such patterns are displayed in the following illustration. The line separation is always constant within a given multiplet, and is called the coupling constant (J). The magnitude of J, usually given in units of Hz, is magnetic field independent. 

The splitting patterns shown above display the ideal or "First-Order" arrangement of lines. This is usually observed if the spin-coupled nuclei have very different chemical shifts (i.e. Δν is large compared to J). If the coupled nuclei have similar chemical shifts, the splitting patterns are distorted (second order behavior). In fact, signal splitting disappears if the chemical shifts are the same. Two examples that exhibit minor 2nd order distortion are shown below (both are taken at a frequency of 90 MHz). The ethyl acetate spectrum on the left displays the typical quartet and triplet of a substituted ethyl group. The spectrum of 1,3-dichloropropane on the right demonstrates that equivalent sets of hydrogens may combine their influence on a second, symmetrically located set. 
Even though the chemical shift difference between the A and B protons in the 1,3-dichloroethane spectrum is fairly large (140 Hz) compared with the coupling constant (6.2 Hz), some distortion of the splitting patterns is evident. The line intensities closest to the chemical shift of the coupled partner are enhanced. Thus the B set triplet lines closest to A are increased, and the A quintet lines nearest B are likewise stronger. A smaller distortion of this kind is visible for the A and C couplings in the ethyl acetate spectrum.





For additional examples of Second Order splitting patterns Click Here.



What causes this signal splitting, and what useful information can be obtained from it ? 
If an atom under examination is perturbed or influenced by a nearby nuclear spin (or set of spins), the observed nucleus responds to such influences, and its response is manifested in its resonance signal. This spin-coupling is transmitted through the connecting bonds, and it functions in both directions. Thus, when the perturbing nucleus becomes the observed nucleus, it also exhibits signal splitting with the same J. For spin-coupling to be observed, the sets of interacting nuclei must be bonded in relatively close proximity (e.g. vicinal and geminal locations), or be oriented in certain optimal and rigid configurations. Some spectroscopists place a number before the symbol J to designate the number of bonds linking the coupled nuclei (colored orange below). Using this terminology, a vicinal coupling constant is 3J and a geminal constant is 2J.


The following general rules summarize important requirements and characteristics for spin 1/2 nuclei :

1)   Nuclei having the same chemical shift (called isochronous) do not exhibit spin-splitting. They may actually be spin-coupled, but the splitting cannot be observed directly.
2)   Nuclei separated by three or fewer bonds (e.g. vicinal and geminal nuclei ) will usually be spin-coupled and will show mutual spin-splitting of the resonance signals (same J's), provided they have different chemical shifts. Longer-range coupling may be observed in molecules having rigid configurations of atoms.
3)   The magnitude of the observed spin-splitting depends on many factors and is given by the coupling constant J (units of Hz). J is the same for both partners in a spin-splitting interaction and is independent of the external magnetic field strength.
4)   The splitting pattern of a given nucleus (or set of equivalent nuclei) can be predicted by the n+1 rule, where n is the number of neighboring spin-coupled nuclei with the same (or very similar) Js. If there are 2 neighboring, spin-coupled, nuclei the observed signal is a triplet ( 2+1=3 ); if there are three spin-coupled neighbors the signal is a quartet ( 3+1=4 ). In all cases the central line(s) of the splitting pattern are stronger than those on the periphery. The intensity ratio of these lines is given by the numbers in Pascal's triangle. Thus a doublet has 1:1 or equal intensities, a triplet has an intensity ratio of 1:2:1, a quartet 1:3:3:1 etc. To see how the numbers in Pascal's triangle are related to the Fibonacci series click on the diagram.


If a given nucleus is spin-coupled to two or more sets of neighboring nuclei by different J values, the n+1 rule does not predict the entire splitting pattern. Instead, the splitting due to one J set is added to that expected from the other J sets. Bear in mind that there may be fortuitous coincidence of some lines if a smaller J is a factor of a larger J.





Magnitude of Some Typical Coupling Constants



Spin 1/2 nuclei include 1H, 13C, 19F & 31P. The spin-coupling interactions described above may occur between similar or dissimilar nuclei. If, for example, a 19F is spin-coupled to a 1H, both nuclei will appear as doublets having the same J constant.   Spin coupling with nuclei having spin other than 1/2 is more complex and will not be discussed here.

To make use of a calculator that predicts first order splitting patterns Click Here. This application was developed at Colby College.


For additional information about spin-spin coupling Click Here.