Skip to main content
Chemistry LibreTexts

21.3: Spectroscopy of Carboxylic Acids

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    ( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorA}[1]{\vec{#1}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorAt}[1]{\vec{\text{#1}}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorB}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorC}[1]{\textbf{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorD}[1]{\overrightarrow{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorDt}[1]{\overrightarrow{\text{#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectE}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash{\mathbf {#1}}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)


    The carboxyl group is associated with two characteristic infrared stretching absorptions which change markedly with hydrogen bonding. The spectrum of a CCl4 solution of propionic acid (propanoic acid), shown below, is illustrative. Carboxylic acids exist predominantly as hydrogen bonded dimers in condensed phases. The O-H stretching absorption for such dimers is very strong and broad, extending from 2500 to 3300 cm-1.

    This absorption overlaps the sharper C-H stretching peaks, which may be seen extending beyond the O-H envelope at 2990, 2950 and 2870 cm-1. The smaller peaks protruding near 2655 and 2560 are characteristic of the dimer. In ether solvents a sharper hydrogen bonded monomer absorption near 3500 cm-1 is observed, due to competition of the ether oxygen as a hydrogen bond acceptor. The carbonyl stretching frequency of the dimer is found near 1710 cm-1, but is increased by 25 cm-1 or more in the monomeric state. Other characteristic stretching and bending absorptions are marked in the spectrum.


    The combination of anisotropy and electronegativity causes the O-H hydrogen in a carboxylic acid to be very deshielded.

    alt Hydrogen environments adjacent to a carboxylic acid are shifted to the region of 2.5-3.0 ppm.Deshielding occurs due to the fact that the sp2 hybridized carbon the the carboxylic acid is more electronegative than a sp3 hybridized carbon.


    2. Sample W is a reactant for a wide range of biochemical processes. Sample X was isolated from vanilla beans. Elemental analysis indicated the compounds are structural isomers with the composition: 54.52% C, 9.16% H and 36.32% O. The IR spectrum for each compound showed a broad absorption from 3500 - 2500 cm-1 and a strong band near 1710 cm-1. The 1H NMR is being serviced, so only the 13C NMR spectra shown below were available.

    Name and draw the bond-line structures for Samples W and X and correlate the 13C NMR spectral signals to their respective compounds.

    ch 21 spectroscopy question.png



    ch 21 spectroscopy question solution.png

    Contributors and Attributions

    21.3: Spectroscopy of Carboxylic Acids is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    • Was this article helpful?