Magnetic dipole–dipole interaction

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Magnetic dipole–dipole interaction, also called dipolar coupling, refers to the direct interaction between two magnetic dipoles. The potential energy of the interaction is as follows:

 H = - \frac{ \mu_0 } {4 \pi r_{jk}^3 } \left( 3 (\bold{m}_j \cdot \bold{e}_{jk})  (\bold{m}_k \cdot \bold{e}_{jk}) - \bold{m}_j \cdot \bold{m}_k \right)

where ejk is a unit vector parallel to the line joining the centers of the two dipoles. rjk is the distance between two dipoles, mk and mj.

For two interacting nuclear spins

 H = - \frac{ \mu_0 }{ 4 \pi } \frac{ \gamma_j \gamma_k \hbar^2}{ r_{jk}^3 } \left( 3 (\bold{I}_j \cdot \bold{e}_{jk})  (\bold{I}_k \cdot \bold{e}_{jk}) - \bold{I}_j \cdot \bold{I}_k \right)

where \mu_0 is the magnetic constant, \gamma_j, \gamma_k are gyromagnetic ratios of two spins, and rjk is the distance between the two spins.

Force between two magnetic dipoles:

\vec{F}_{ab}= \frac {3 \mu_0} {4 \pi |r|^4} [ (\hat r \times \vec{m}_a) \times \vec{m}_b + (\hat r \times \vec{m}_b) \times \vec{m}_a - 2 \hat r(\vec{m}_a \cdot \vec{m}_b) + 5 \hat r ((\hat r \times \vec{m}_a) \cdot (\hat r \times \vec{m}_b)) ]

where \hat{r} is unit vector pointing from magnetic moment m_a to m_b, and |r| is the distance between those two magnetic dipole moments.

Dipolar coupling and NMR spectroscopy[edit]

The direct dipole-dipole coupling is very useful for molecular structural studies, since it depends only on known physical constants and the inverse cube of internuclear distance. Estimation of this coupling provides a direct spectroscopic route to the distance between nuclei and hence the geometrical form of the molecule, or additionally also on intermolecular distances in the solid state leading to NMR crystallography notably in amorphous materials. Although internuclear magnetic dipole couplings contain a great deal of structural information, in isotropic solution, they average to zero as a result of rotational diffusion. However, their effect on nuclear spin relaxation results in measurable nuclear Overhauser effects (NOEs).

The residual dipolar coupling (RDC) occur if the molecules in solution exhibit a partial alignment leading to an incomplete averaging of spatially anisotropic magnetic interactions i.e. dipolar couplings. RDC measurement provides information on the global folding of the protein-long distance structural information. It also provides information about "slow" dynamics in molecules

Relevance to Current Research[edit]

While the theory of magnetic dipole-dipole interactions has deep roots, it is not a dead subject by any means. For instance, the dipole-dipole interaction is critical to the understanding of magnetic dipoles in optical lattices.[1]


  • Malcolm H. Levitt, Spin Dynamics: Basics of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. ISBN 0-471-48922-0.

See also[edit]