H-NMR spectrum with spin-spin coupling

Learn how to use the GUI to setup the calculation of NMR chemical shifts and nuclear spin-spin coupling constants (NSSCCs). Use the ADFspectra module to inspect the results and compare the simulated and experimental NMR spectra directly.


See also

Step 1: Start ADFinput

The tutorial is best run in a separate folder labeled Tutorials

Start ADFjobs
Click on the folder icon labeled Tutorials
Start ADFinput using the SCM menu

Step 2: Create the molecule

You can download a pre-optimized ethyl acetate structure from here:

Click here to download the .xyz file Ethyl_acetate.xyz
Import the coordinates in ADFinput:
File → Import Coordinates

The above structure was optimized with the following settings:

  • Hybrid:PBE0
  • Basis: TZP
  • Frozen core: None
  • Numerical Quality: Good

In case you want to run the geometry optimization yourself, take a look at the GUI tutorial on geometry optimizations.

Step 3: Setting up the NMR calculation

Select the following settings from within ADFinput

XC functional: GGA → OPBE
Basis set: J → TZ2P-J
Frozen core: None
Numerical quality: Good


The basis sets in J, including TZ2P-J, have been especially designed for ESR hyperfine and NMR spin-spin coupling calculations.

Next, instruct the program to calculate the shieldings for all hydrogen atoms.

Click Properties menu
Select NMR
Click checkbox H atoms next to shielding for all
Click checkbox H atoms next to Perturbing / responding all


In some cases, e.g. when dealing with alcohol groups, you might want to exclude atoms from the list of perturbing and responding atoms. To do so, just select the atoms you want to calculate the splittings for, and use the + button to add to the list of perturbing and responding atoms manually.

You have now finished the setup of the calculation and are ready to run it. It should take around 10 minutes to finish, but that may vary depending on your hardware.

Select File → Run
Click OK to save over the previous version
Click Yes when ADFjobs warns that results are already present
Wait for the calculation to finish

Step 4: Results of your calculations

Logfile: ADFtail

You can follow the progress of the calculation with ADFtail. The chemical shifts will be calculated first, followed by the couplings constants for the perturbing and responding atoms.

When the calculation is finished the end of your logfile will look something like this:


View the 1 H-NMR spectrum

Use ADFspectra to visualize the calculated spectrum

Select SCM → Spectra
In ADFSpectra, set the “Width” to 0.01

By default only the chemical shifts are visualized using plain singlets. To switch on the visualization of couplings:

Click on the coupling checkbox

This switches on the spin-spin coupling (default machine frequency at 200 Mhz). An additional section in the table will appear which displays additional information for any selected atom or peak in the spectrum. For example:

Click on the quartet in the spectrum

Average chemical shifts and couplings for equivalent atoms

As you may have noticed, there are a lot of splittings in the simulated spectrum. This is because all the chemical shifts and coupling constants are calculated at fixed geometry, which means that there is no rotation which would create magnetically equivalent groups.

You can resolve this issue by either flagging chemically equivalent atoms manually or have ADFspectra guess them for you. To manually supply the information:

Select groups of chemically equivalent atoms and

Hold down the SHIFT key on your keyboard
Use the left key of the mouse to select several atoms
Press CTRL+G or go to Regions → New Region From Selected Atoms

The atoms should now be surrounded by a colored sphere. Continue with all remaining atoms. Your spectrum should look as follows now:


To have ADFspectra guess chemically equivalent regions for you, go to

Click on NMR menu
Click on Chemical Equivalent Regions


In the NMR menu you can adjust the thresholds that are used by the algorithm to identify equivalent regions.

Comparison of calculated and experimental spectrum

A good source for experimental spectra is the SDBS database: http://sdbs.db.aist.go.jp/sdbs/cgi-bin/direct_frame_top.cgi

We will get the 1 H-NMR spectrum from that database and compare it with the calculated results. You can use data from any source you like, as long as data is available as peaks (positions and intensities) or as a full spectrum (all X values with corresponding Y values).

As this part of the tutorial depends on external data, you may need to adjust details as needed.

Use a browser (do NOT quit ADFspectra) to go to the SDBS database at http://sdbs.db.aist.go.jp/sdbs/cgi-bin/direct_frame_top.cgi
Search for ethyl acetate (CAS = 141-78-6)
Select HNMR

You should see the 1H NMR spectrum, three groups of peaks, with assignment. Next we will copy the peak data to the clipboard:

Click on the ‘Peak data’ button
Select the peak data (three columns, all lines with peaks)

Now we switch back to ADFspectra where we can paste the contents from the clipboard directly:

Activate the ADFspectra window showing the calculated ethanol spectrum
Edit → Paste

ADFspectra will ask which columns to use for X and Y, and offer to rescale the data:

Enter 2 to use the second column as X values (that column contains the chemical shift in ppm) and click OK
Enter 3 to use the third columns as Y vales and click OK

You now should see both the experimental and the calculated spectrum in one graph. The experimental spectrum (at least the one used to create this tutorial) was measured at 89.56 MHz. So adjust the frequency (default at 200 MHz) of the calculated spectrum:

Change the frequency (next to the Coupling check box) from 200 MHz to 89.56 MHz

This should give you something like this:


Sometimes it makes sense to change one of the spectra to a stick spectrum, showing only sticks for the calculated positions and heights, not applying the broadening. As an example lets do that here for the calculated peak positions:

Double click below the X-axes to show the Graph options dialog
Click on the Curves tab
Select the NMR curve (not the Clipboard one) in the menu on the left
For this curve, on the right side: Show the Sticks, and do NOT show the Curve itself
Click OK

Now you should get the experimental spectrum as a broadened curve, with sticks for the calculated positions:


Step 5: Spectrum overlap

If you have an (experimental) spectrum in xy format with the same units as your calculated spectrum, you can calculate and optimize the overlap. The method used to calculate the overlap is SimIR/VCD from J. Shen et al. Spectrochimica Acta Part A 76 (2010) 418-422. First, we start with a clean ADFspectra window with our NMR calculation and apply the previous NMR options:

Select SCM → Spectra
In ADFSpectra, set the “Width” to 0.01
Tick the Coupling checkbox
Change the frequency from 200 MHz to 89.56 MHz
Click on Chemical Equivalent Regions in the NMR menu

Now we will add an experimental spectrum that has the same units as our calculated spectrum:

Click here to download the .xy file Ethyl_acetate.xy
Add the spectrum: File → Add
Answer ‘Yes’ when asked to put the spectrum on the left axis

If your spectrum has different units you will want to put it on the right axis, so you can scale it separately. In that case you cannot calculate or optimize the overlap. We will now optimize the overlap. The peak width, standard reference (or offset in general), and scaling will be optimized to maximize the overlap between the spectra. Important to note is that only the current horizontal range is used to optimize the overlap. Specific areas of the spectrum can be optimized this way by limiting the range.

Optimize the overlap: Tools → Optimize SimIR Spectra Overlap

The results are immediately applied to the calculated spectrum. Instead of optimizing the overlap, just the overlap can be shown and updated on the fly when the width, offset, scale or horizontal range are changed.

Show the overlap: Tools → Show SimIR Spectra Overlap