Nuclear magnetic resonance, or NMR as it is abbreviated by scientists, is a phenomenon which occurs when the nuclei of certain atoms are immersed in a static magnetic field and exposed to a second oscillating magnetic field. Some nuclei experience this phenomenon, and others do not, dependent upon whether they possess a property called spin. You will learn about spin and about the role of the magnetic fields in Chapter 2, but first let’s review where the nucleus is.
Most of the matter you can examine with NMR is composed of molecules. Molecules are composed of atoms. Here are a few water molecules. Each water molecule has one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms. If we zoom into one of the hydrogens past the electron cloud we see a nucleus composed of a single proton. The proton possesses a property called spin which:
can be thought of as a small magnetic field, and will cause the nucleus to produce an NMR signal.
Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction of electromagnetic radiation with matter. Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy is the use of the NMR phenomenon to study physical, chemical, and biological properties of matter. As a consequence, NMR spectroscopy finds applications in several areas of science. NMR spectroscopy is routinely used by chemists to study chemical structure using simple one-dimensional techniques. Two-dimensional techniques are used to determine the structure of more complicated molecules. These techniques are replacing x-ray crystallography for the determination of protein structure. Time domain NMR spectroscopic techniques are used to probe molecular dynamics in solutions. Solid state NMR spectroscopy is used to determine the molecular structure of solids. Other scientists have developed NMR methods of measuring diffusion coefficients.
The versatility of NMR makes it pervasive in the sciences. Scientists and students are discovering that knowledge of the science and technology of NMR is essential for applying, as well as developing, new applications for it. Unfortunately many of the dynamic concepts of NMR spectroscopy are difficult for the novice to understand when static diagrams in hard copy texts are used. The chapters in this hypertext book on NMR are designed in such a way to incorporate both static and dynamic figures with hypertext. This book presents a comprehensive picture of the basic principles necessary to begin using NMR spectroscopy, and it will provide you with an understanding of the principles of NMR from the microscopic, macroscopic, and system perspectives.