IR Spectroscopy Tutorial: Alkenes

Alkenes are compounds that have a carbon-carbon double bond, –C=C–. The stretching vibration of the C=C bond usually gives rise to a moderate band in the region 1680-1640 cm-1.

Stretching vibrations of the –C=C–H bond are of higher frequency (higher wavenumber) than those of the –C–C–H bond in alkanes.

This is a very useful tool for interpreting IR spectra: Only alkenes and aromatics show a C-H stretch slightly higher than 3000 cm-1. Compounds that do not have a C=C bond show C-H stretches only below 3000 cm-1.

The strongest bands in the spectra of alkenes are those attributed to the carbon-hydrogen bending vibrations of the =C–H group. These bands are in the region 1000-650 cm-1 (Note: this overlaps the fingerprint region).


The IR spectrum of 1-octene is shown below. Note the band greater than 3000 cm-1 for the =C–H stretch and the several bands lower than 3000 cm-1 for –C–H stretch (alkanes). The C=C stretch band is at 1644 cm-1. Bands for C–H scissoring (1465) and methyl rock (1378) are marked on this spectrum; in routine IR analysis, these bands are not specific to an alkene and are generally not noted because they are present in almost all organic molecules (and they are in the fingerprint region). The bands at 917 cm-1 and 1044cm-1 are attributed to =C&Mac173;H bends.

It is interesting to overlay a spectrum of 1-octene with octane (shown below). Note how similar they are, except for the bands due to C=C or C=C–H stretches/bends.