Infrared spectroscopy (IR spectroscopy) is the spectroscopy that deals with the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, that is light with a longer wavelength and lower frequency than visible light. It covers a range of techniques, mostly based on absorption spectroscopy. As with all spectroscopic techniques, it can be used to identify and study chemicals. For a given sample which may be solid, liquid, or gaseous, the method or technique of infrared spectroscopy uses an instrument called an infrared spectrometer (or spectrophotometer) to produce an infrared spectrum. A basic IR spectrum is essentially a graph of infrared light absorbance (or transmittance) on the vertical axis vs. frequency or wavelength on the horizontal axis. Typical units of frequency used in IR spectra are reciprocal centimeters (sometimes called wave numbers), with the symbol cm−1. Units of IR wavelength are commonly given in micrometers (formerly called “microns”), symbol μm, which are related to wave numbers in a reciprocal way. A common laboratory instrument that uses this technique is a Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer. Two-dimensional IR is also possible as discussed below.
The infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum is usually divided into three regions; the near-, mid- and far- infrared, named for their relation to the visible spectrum. The higher-energy near-IR, approximately 14000–4000 cm−1 (0.8–2.5 μm wavelength) can excite overtone or harmonic vibrations. The mid-infrared, approximately 4000–400 cm−1 (2.5–25 μm) may be used to study the fundamental vibrations and associated rotational-vibrational structure. The far-infrared, approximately 400–10 cm−1 (25–1000 μm), lying adjacent to the microwave region, has low energy and may be used for rotational spectroscopy. The names and classifications of these sub regions are conventions, and are only loosely based on the relative molecular or electromagnetic properties.
Practical IR spectroscopy
The infrared spectrum of a sample is recorded by passing a beam of infrared light through the sample. When the frequency of the IR is the same as the vibrational frequency of a bond, absorption occurs. Examination of the transmitted light reveals how much energy was absorbed at each frequency (or wavelength). This can be achieved by scanning the wavelength range using a monochromator. Alternatively, the whole wavelength range is measured at once using a Fourier transform instrument and then a transmittance or absorbance spectrum is generated using a dedicated procedure. Analysis of the position, shape and intensity of peaks in this spectrum reveals details about the molecular structure of the sample.
This technique works almost exclusively on samples with covalent bonds. Simple spectra are obtained from samples with few IR active bonds and high levels of purity. More complex molecular structures lead to more absorption bands and more complex spectra. The technique has been used for the characterization of very complex mixtures. Spectra issues with infrared fluorescence are rare.
Two-dimensional infrared correlation spectroscopy analysis combines multiple samples of infrared spectra to reveal more complex properties. By extending the spectral information of a perturbed sample, spectral analysis is simplified and resolution is enhanced. The 2D synchronous and 2D asynchronous spectra represent a graphical overview of the spectral changes due to a perturbation (such as a changing concentration or changing temperature) as well as the relationship between the spectral changes at two different wavenumbers.
Nonlinear two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy is the infrared version of correlation spectroscopy. Nonlinear two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy is a technique that has become available with the development of femtosecond infrared laser pulses. In this experiment, first a set of pump pulses is applied to the sample. This is followed by a waiting time during which the system is allowed to relax. The typical waiting time lasts from zero to several picoseconds, and the duration can be controlled with a resolution of tens of femtoseconds. A probe pulse is then applied, resulting in the emission of a signal from the sample. The nonlinear two-dimensional infrared spectrum is a two-dimensional correlation plot of the frequency ω1 that was excited by the initial pump pulses and the frequency ω3 excited by the probe pulse after the waiting time. This allows the observation of coupling between different vibrational modes; because of its extremely fine time resolution, it can be used to monitor molecular dynamics on a picosecond timescale. It is still a largely unexplored technique and is becoming increasingly popular for fundamental research.
As with two-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance (2DNMR) spectroscopy, this technique spreads the spectrum in two dimensions and allows for the observation of cross peaks that contain information on the coupling between different modes. In contrast to 2DNMR, nonlinear two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy also involves the excitation to overtones. These excitations result in excited state absorption peaks located below the diagonal and cross peaks. In 2DNMR, two distinct techniques, COSY and NOESY, are frequently used. The cross peaks in the first are related to the scalar coupling, while in the latter they are related to the spin transfer between different nuclei. In nonlinear two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy, analogs have been drawn to these 2DNMR techniques. Nonlinear two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy with zero waiting time corresponds to COSY, and nonlinear two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy with finite waiting time allowing vibrational population transfer corresponds to NOESY. The COSY variant of nonlinear two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy has been used for determination of the secondary structure content of proteins.