Pictorial Guide to Interpreting Infrared Spectra

Posted on Sep 21, 2010

Having taught spectroscopy for several years, I find that students commonly have a hard time prioritizing IR bands in their spectra interpretation.  After several false starts and long years of procrastination, here’s a pictorial guide that I hope would be clear, accurate, and helpful for learning to interpret IR spectra.  If you wish to use this for print, the PDF version would give better resolution and can be found here.

In Portuguese, translated by Vitor Ribeiro.

In German, translated by Robert Herzog.

In Spanish, translated by Henry Hughes (UNGS Argentina)

Can you “speak chemistry” in a language other than English? Let me know if you can (and want to) help translate this image.


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Sage Ross

    Wow, this is awesome! I love spectroscopy, and this makes a much better IR primer than anything I had in college.

    Planning an NMR companion?

    • toeholds

      Hi – thanks for the compliment. I’ve put some scribbles down for an NMR interpretation primer, but with no particular push, that would likely take awhile. I’m tied up by a thesis, and an efficient method to create (10^3) physics/chemistry-related illustrations. Sad for me, I’m more excited about the latter than the former: imagine all the phys/chem wikipedia articles getting high-quality, stylistically similar, factually correct illustrations, and more than that, where instructors/researchers have free access to the sources (together with modification instructions) for their unique needs… big dreams, and we’ll see how that pans out in a year’s time. :)

  2. elpies

    This is fantastic. Is there any way to get a poster of this for a classroom?

    • Jon

      Hi Elpies – thanks for the compliments. The PDF linked here is resolution-independent and in CMYK color-space: you should be able to print a poster from that at your local print-shop and the image will remain crisp, sharp, and unpixelated.

  3. John

    This is fabulous. What is the “quick functional group identification exercise” you refer to? If you have a similar graphic available I’d like to have that for my students, too.

    • Jon

      Hi John – I made up a page of molecules with increasing complexities, for kids to circle in / label functional groups. (Our spec course runs parallel to the first organic, and there are other students who’ve taken org-chem long enough ago that a refresher would be useful.) I can’t find the sheet right now, but when I do I’ll post it and let you know.

  4. Matthew Hutchins

    Would love any spec material you have, the poster has helped quite a lot.

    • Jon

      Great to hear – the 1H-NMR one is close to complete, but with me on the road and with little internet access that may not get to show up for a little while.

  5. Seanwu

    A very useful and instructive illustration, thanks~

  6. Abhishek

    Hi, This is nice work. But i am confused with my IR transmission graph of a Metal Oxide. How can i Identify whether my prepared material is ok or not??

    • Jon

      Hi – there’s not enough information in your question to decide one way or another. What I recommend is to start with the structure of your expected metal oxide, and see what bands would be expected (e.g., by consulting other similar compounds). This would let you know which bands to look for to confirm or refute a successful synthesis.

  7. Pertinax

    This changes everything.

  8. Grace Matthews

    Wonderful learning aid. My exam is four days away and you’ve actually made this click for me thank you.

    • Jon

      Glad to hear, and hope the exam went well. Been traveling for a few months; there’s more chemistry related stuff to come shortly after I get home.

  9. Anonymous

    Thanks for such a wonderful illustration. And I wanna say that I would like to help with the Chinese version, but I’m preparing for exams.. Hopefully I’ll have be free in half a month or so. Then I would definitely help to trans!

  10. M84rs

    It is good effort

  11. Alekhya G

    fabulous n fantastic. its amazing

  12. UW Student

    Thankyou so much for this pictoral representation! It has made my Ochem labs a breeze now :D


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