CIE AS Chemistry (9701) exams from 2022

Revision Notes

4.1.1 Infra-Red Spectroscopy

Interpreting IR Spectra

  • Infrared (IR) spectroscopy is a technique used to identify compounds based on changes in vibrations of atoms when they absorb IR of certain frequencies
  • A spectrophotometer irradiates the sample with electromagnetic waves in the infrared region and then detects the intensity of the wavelength of IR radiation which goes through the sample
  • All organic molecules absorb IR radiation and depending on which energies of radiation are absorbed, bonds between atoms will vibrate by stretching, bending and twisting
  • The molecules will only vibrate at a specific frequency
  • The resonance frequency is the specific frequency at which the molecules will vibrate to stimular larger vibrations
  • Depending on the rest of the molecule, each vibration will absorb specific wavelengths of IR radiation which are also shown as the reciprocal of the wavelength
    • This unit is called the wavenumber (cm-1)
  • Particular absorbance have characteristic widths (broad or sharp) and intensities (strong or weak)
    • For example, hydrogen bonds cause the O-H bonds in alcohols and carboxylic acids to be broad whereas the C-O bond in carbonyl (C=O) groups have a strong, sharp absorbance peak
  • The energies absorbed by different functional groups are given as a range and an unknown compound can be identified by comparing its IR spectrum to the IR spectrum of a known compound

Absorption range of bonds table

Analytical Techniques Table 1_ Interpreting IR Spectra, downloadable AS & A Level Chemistry revision notes


  • Due to some absorption bands overlapping each other, other analytical techniques such as mass spectroscopy should be used alongside IR spectroscopy to identify an unknown compound

Worked Example: Analysing IR spectra

Analytical Techniques Worked Example - Analysing IR Spectra, downloadable AS & A Level Chemistry revision notes


Analytical Techniques Question Worked Example - Analysing IR Spectra, downloadable AS & A Level Chemistry revision notes


IR spectrum A is propanone and spectrum B is propan-2-ol.

In IR spectrum A the presence of a strong, sharp absorption around 1710 cm-1 corresponds to the characteristic C=O, carbonyl, group in a ketone.

In spectrum B the presence of a strong, broad absorption around 3200-3500 cm-1 suggests that there is an alcohol group present, which corresponds to the -OH group in propan-2-ol.


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