The computer in an NMR instrument can be instructed to automatically integrate the area under a signal or group of signals. This is very useful, because in 1H-NMR spectroscopy the area under a signal is proportional to the number of hydrogens to which the peak corresponds. The two signals in the methyl acetate spectrum, for example, integrate to approximately the same area, because they both correspond to a set of three equivalent protons.
Take a look next at the spectrum of para-xylene (IUPAC name 1,4-dimethylbenzene):
This molecule has two sets of protons: the six methyl (Ha) protons and the four aromatic (Hb) protons. When we instruct the instrument to integrate the areas under the two signals, we find that the area under the peak at 2.6 ppm is 1.5 times greater than the area under the peak at 7.4 ppm. This (along with the actual chemical shift values, which we'll discuss soon) tells us which set of protons corresponds to which NMR signal.
The integration function can also be used to determine the relative amounts of two or more compounds in a mixed sample. If we have a sample that is a 50:50 (mole/mole) mixture of benzene and acetone, for example, the acetone signal should integrate to the same value as the benzene sample, because both signals represent six equivalent protons. If we have a 50:50 mixture of acetone and cyclopentane, on the other hand, the ratio of the acetone peak area to the cylopentane peak area will be 3:5 (or 6:10), because the cyclopentane signal represents ten protons.
9. Predict how many signals the following molecule would have? Sketch the spectra and estimate the integration of the peaks.
9. There will be two peaks. Ideal general spectrum shown with integration.