12.3: IR-Active and IR-Inactive Vibrations
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Some bonds absorb infrared light more strongly than others, and some bonds do not absorb at all. In order for a vibrational mode to absorb infrared light, it must result in a periodic change in the dipole moment of the molecule. Such vibrations are said to be infrared active. In general, the greater the polarity of the bond, the stronger its IR absorption. The carbonyl bond is very polar, and absorbs very strongly. The carbon-carbon triple bond in most alkynes, in contrast, is much less polar, and thus a stretching vibration does not result in a large change in the overall dipole moment of the molecule. Alkyne groups absorb rather weakly compared to carbonyls.
Some kinds of vibrations are infrared inactive. The stretching vibrations of completely symmetrical double and triple bonds, for example, do not result in a change in dipole moment, and therefore do not result in any absorption of light (but other bonds and vibrational modes in these molecules do absorb IR light).