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Beyond the Basics of NMR: Proton and Carbon

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a powerful analytical tool for determining the structure of organic compounds. As a process to determine a product’s authenticity, NMR can offer a world of information.

There are specific approaches with NMR however, that can refine the analysis of molecules to provide more precise insights about the structure of compounds. 

Proton (1H) NMR and Carbon (13C) NMR are the two most used forms of NMR spectroscopy. All organic molecules are made of hydrogen and carbon among other elements. We can use Proton (1H) NMR and Carbon (13C) NMR to assess the chemical environments of protons (hydrogens) and carbons, respectively. In practice, scientists often use both proton and carbon NMR in tandem, along with other techniques, to fully understand the structure of compounds.

Proton (1H) NMR is often the first technique used for the structural elucidation of organic molecules. This technique helps give a view of the structure of an ingredient. Some of the characteristics of Proton (1H) NMR can be described as follows:

  • Functions as a chemical fingerprint of the product
  • Suitable for quick screening of the products: data can be collected in a short time
  • Well-suited for fast and routine testing especially where the molecular information is not important and only the total profile is of interest
  • Works for non-targeted analysis – although the spectrum can be analysed in a targeted approach, and the peaks can be assigned to molecules of interest
  • The molecules can be quantified

Carbon (13C) NMR provides complementary information, giving insight into the different carbon environments in a molecule. Its characteristics can be described in the following way:

  • Appropriate for addressing specific questions versus quick screening of products
  • Can be used to take a deeper dive into the product to assess the molecules present as a typical spectrum spans 200ppm versus a portion (1H) spectrum which is 10ppm
  • Suitable for studying complex molecules such as carbohydrates and beta glucan

Neither technique is universally "more effective" than the other. Instead, the choice between them is based on the specific needs of the analysis. For complete structural comprehension, both 1H and 13C NMR are often employed together, supplemented by other analytical techniques as needed.

Purity-IQ is biotech company that specializes in authentication services.  As one of Canada’s leaders in NMR analysis, Purity-IQ uses both proton and carbon analysis in NMR Spectroscopy.

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