Observation of scalar nuclear spin-spin coupling in van der Waals complexes

Micah P. Ledbetter, Giacomo Saielli, Alessandro Bagno, Nhan Tran, Michael V. Romalis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Scalar couplings between covalently bound nuclear spins are a ubiquitous feature in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) experiments, imparting valuable information to NMR spectra regarding molecular structure and conformation. Such couplings arise due to a second-order hyperfine interaction, and, in principle, the same mechanism should lead to scalar couplings between nuclear spins in unbound van der Waals complexes. Here, we report the first observation of scalar couplings between nuclei in van der Waals complexes. Our measurements are performed in a solution of hyperpolarized 129Xe and pentane, using superconducting quantum interference devices to detect NMR in 10 mG fields, and are in good agreement with calculations based on density functional theory. van der Waals forces play an important role in many physical phenomena. The techniques presented here may provide a new method for probing such interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12393-12397
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number31
StatePublished - Jul 31 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Low field NMR
  • Magnetometry
  • Molecular dynamics simulations
  • SQUIDs
  • Through-space spin-spin coupling


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