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Logic Puzzle #6: Dealing with an Extra 13C Peak … Solution

August 31, 2010

Socrates is known for saying ‘Know thyself’, along the same line, chemists should ‘Know thy instrument’. The example below is one such case.

The 13C NMR [1H] spectrum below exhibits 6 signals. If an unknown compound comprises of 7 carbon atoms, then the following scenarios, or combinations thereof, are possible to account for missing or extra carbon peaks on the spectrum:

1. the 13C peaks are too weak to be clearly evident,

2. the 13C peaks are overlapping (equivalent or coincidental), and/or

3. the 13C peaks may pertain to instrument artefacts, mixtures or impurities.

The carbon signals are 111 and 118 ppm may account for 2 carbons atoms each. This is based on the relative intensities of the peaks and this is a characteristic prevalent for aromatic carbons. The total count is now at 8 atoms. The higher atom count indicates the presence of an artefact or impurity. The signal at the exact centre of the spectrum, 100 ppm, can be attributed to a quadrature spike – an artefact produced from the instrument. If so, the total count matches the known carbon count.

Although this analysis is not conclusive, it is worth noting that there are several other possible interpretations and only additional data will help substantiate one possibility over the other.


Thank you Adolfo, Maxa and Serge for your comments.


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