Division of Chemical Education, American Chemical Society
Place of publication
Undergraduate students often have the misconception that molecules have fixed, unchanging bond lengths. This article discusses how linear-molecule rotational band spacings in infrared spectroscopy can be used as a qualitative, visual demonstration of the elongation of average bond lengths on vibrational excitation. The method does not depend on a detailed mathematical analysis of the spectra. In UV–vis spectroscopy, the rotational band spacings give rise to distinctive linear-molecule rotational contours, which easily show whether the average bond length has increased or decreased. The method is based on a spreadsheet simulation of the vibration–rotation or rovibronic (electronic–vibration–rotation) spectrum and is applied to hydrogen chloride IR, iodine UV–vis, and nitrogen UV–vis spectra in this article.