Chemical polarity

Chemical polarity

Overview
In chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

, polarity refers to a separation of electric charge
Electric charge
Electric charge is a physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when near other electrically charged matter. Electric charge comes in two types, called positive and negative. Two positively charged substances, or objects, experience a mutual repulsive force, as do two...

 leading to a molecule or its chemical groups having an electric dipole
Electric dipole moment
In physics, the electric dipole moment is a measure of the separation of positive and negative electrical charges in a system of charges, that is, a measure of the charge system's overall polarity with SI units of Coulomb-meter...

 or multipole
Multipole moments
In mathematics, especially as applied to physics, multipole moments are the coefficients of a series expansion of a potential due to continuous or discrete sources . A multipole moment usually involves powers of the distance to the origin, as well as some angular dependence...

 moment. Polar molecules interact through dipole–dipole intermolecular force
Intermolecular force
Intermolecular forces are forces of attraction or repulsion which act between neighboring particles: atoms, molecules or ions. They are weak compared to the intramolecular forces, the forces which keep a molecule together...

s and hydrogen bonds. Molecular polarity is dependent on the difference in electronegativity
Electronegativity
Electronegativity, symbol χ , is a chemical property that describes the tendency of an atom or a functional group to attract electrons towards itself. An atom's electronegativity is affected by both its atomic number and the distance that its valence electrons reside from the charged nucleus...

 between atoms in a compound and the asymmetry
Asymmetry
Asymmetry is the absence of, or a violation of, symmetry.-In organisms:Due to how cells divide in organisms, asymmetry in organisms is fairly usual in at least one dimension, with biological symmetry also being common in at least one dimension....

 of the compound's structure. For example, a molecule of water is polar because of the unequal sharing of its electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

s between oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 and hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 in which the former has larger electronegativity than the latter, resulting in a "bent" structure, whereas methane
Methane
Methane is a chemical compound with the chemical formula . It is the simplest alkane, the principal component of natural gas, and probably the most abundant organic compound on earth. The relative abundance of methane makes it an attractive fuel...

 is considered nonpolar because the carbon
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

 shares the electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

s with the hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 atoms almost uniformly.
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Encyclopedia
In chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

, polarity refers to a separation of electric charge
Electric charge
Electric charge is a physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when near other electrically charged matter. Electric charge comes in two types, called positive and negative. Two positively charged substances, or objects, experience a mutual repulsive force, as do two...

 leading to a molecule or its chemical groups having an electric dipole
Electric dipole moment
In physics, the electric dipole moment is a measure of the separation of positive and negative electrical charges in a system of charges, that is, a measure of the charge system's overall polarity with SI units of Coulomb-meter...

 or multipole
Multipole moments
In mathematics, especially as applied to physics, multipole moments are the coefficients of a series expansion of a potential due to continuous or discrete sources . A multipole moment usually involves powers of the distance to the origin, as well as some angular dependence...

 moment. Polar molecules interact through dipole–dipole intermolecular force
Intermolecular force
Intermolecular forces are forces of attraction or repulsion which act between neighboring particles: atoms, molecules or ions. They are weak compared to the intramolecular forces, the forces which keep a molecule together...

s and hydrogen bonds. Molecular polarity is dependent on the difference in electronegativity
Electronegativity
Electronegativity, symbol χ , is a chemical property that describes the tendency of an atom or a functional group to attract electrons towards itself. An atom's electronegativity is affected by both its atomic number and the distance that its valence electrons reside from the charged nucleus...

 between atoms in a compound and the asymmetry
Asymmetry
Asymmetry is the absence of, or a violation of, symmetry.-In organisms:Due to how cells divide in organisms, asymmetry in organisms is fairly usual in at least one dimension, with biological symmetry also being common in at least one dimension....

 of the compound's structure. For example, a molecule of water is polar because of the unequal sharing of its electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

s between oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 and hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 in which the former has larger electronegativity than the latter, resulting in a "bent" structure, whereas methane
Methane
Methane is a chemical compound with the chemical formula . It is the simplest alkane, the principal component of natural gas, and probably the most abundant organic compound on earth. The relative abundance of methane makes it an attractive fuel...

 is considered nonpolar because the carbon
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

 shares the electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

s with the hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 atoms almost uniformly. Polarity underlies a number of physical properties including surface tension
Surface tension
Surface tension is a property of the surface of a liquid that allows it to resist an external force. It is revealed, for example, in floating of some objects on the surface of water, even though they are denser than water, and in the ability of some insects to run on the water surface...

, solubility
Solubility
Solubility is the property of a solid, liquid, or gaseous chemical substance called solute to dissolve in a solid, liquid, or gaseous solvent to form a homogeneous solution of the solute in the solvent. The solubility of a substance fundamentally depends on the used solvent as well as on...

, and melting- and boiling-points.

Theory


Electrons are not always shared equally between two bonding atoms; one atom might exert more of a force on the electron cloud than the other. This "pull" is termed electronegativity
Electronegativity
Electronegativity, symbol χ , is a chemical property that describes the tendency of an atom or a functional group to attract electrons towards itself. An atom's electronegativity is affected by both its atomic number and the distance that its valence electrons reside from the charged nucleus...

 and measures the attraction for electrons a particular atom has. The unequal sharing of electrons within a bond leads to the formation of an electric dipole
Dipole
In physics, there are several kinds of dipoles:*An electric dipole is a separation of positive and negative charges. The simplest example of this is a pair of electric charges of equal magnitude but opposite sign, separated by some distance. A permanent electric dipole is called an electret.*A...

: a separation of positive and negative electric charge. Partial charges are denoted as δ+ (delta
Delta (letter)
Delta is the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 4. It was derived from the Phoenician letter Dalet...

 plus) and δ− (delta minus). These symbols were introduced by Christopher Ingold and his wife Dr. Hilda Usherwood in 1926.

Atoms with high electronegativities — such as fluorine
Fluorine
Fluorine is the chemical element with atomic number 9, represented by the symbol F. It is the lightest element of the halogen column of the periodic table and has a single stable isotope, fluorine-19. At standard pressure and temperature, fluorine is a pale yellow gas composed of diatomic...

, oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

, and nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

 — exert a greater pull on electrons than atoms with lower electronegativities. In a bond, this can lead to unequal sharing of electrons between atoms, as electrons will be drawn closer to the atom with the higher electronegativity.

Bonds can fall between one of two extremes — being completely nonpolar or completely polar. A completely nonpolar bond occurs when the electronegativities are identical and therefore possess a difference of zero. A completely polar bond is more correctly termed ionic bond
Ionic bond
An ionic bond is a type of chemical bond formed through an electrostatic attraction between two oppositely charged ions. Ionic bonds are formed between a cation, which is usually a metal, and an anion, which is usually a nonmetal. Pure ionic bonding cannot exist: all ionic compounds have some...

ing and occurs when the difference between electronegativities is large enough that one atom takes an electron from the other. The terms "polar" and "nonpolar" bonds usually refer to covalent bond
Covalent bond
A covalent bond is a form of chemical bonding that is characterized by the sharing of pairs of electrons between atoms. The stable balance of attractive and repulsive forces between atoms when they share electrons is known as covalent bonding....

s. To determine the polarity of a covalent bond using numerical means, the difference between the electronegativity of the atoms is taken. If the result is between 0.4 and 1.7 then, generally, the bond is polar covalent.

Polarity of molecules


While the molecules can be described as "polar covalent", "nonpolar covalent", or "ionic", it must be noted that this is often a relative term, with one molecule simply being more polar or more nonpolar than another. However, the following properties are typical of such molecules.

A molecule is composed of one or more chemical bonds between molecular orbital
Molecular orbital
In chemistry, a molecular orbital is a mathematical function describing the wave-like behavior of an electron in a molecule. This function can be used to calculate chemical and physical properties such as the probability of finding an electron in any specific region. The term "orbital" was first...

s of different atoms. A molecule may be polar either as a result of polar bonds due to differences in electronegativity
Electronegativity
Electronegativity, symbol χ , is a chemical property that describes the tendency of an atom or a functional group to attract electrons towards itself. An atom's electronegativity is affected by both its atomic number and the distance that its valence electrons reside from the charged nucleus...

 as described above, or as a result of an asymmetric arrangement of nonpolar covalent bonds and non-bonding pairs of electrons known as a full molecular orbital
Molecular orbital
In chemistry, a molecular orbital is a mathematical function describing the wave-like behavior of an electron in a molecule. This function can be used to calculate chemical and physical properties such as the probability of finding an electron in any specific region. The term "orbital" was first...

.

Polar molecules


Examples of common household polar molecules include sugar, for instance the sucrose
Sucrose
Sucrose is the organic compound commonly known as table sugar and sometimes called saccharose. A white, odorless, crystalline powder with a sweet taste, it is best known for its role in human nutrition. The molecule is a disaccharide composed of glucose and fructose with the molecular formula...

 sugar variety. Sugars have many polar oxygen–hydrogen (-OH) groups and are overall highly polar.

Due to the polar nature of the water molecule (H2O) itself, polar molecules are generally able to dissolve in water.
  • Example 1. The hydrogen fluoride
    Hydrogen fluoride
    Hydrogen fluoride is a chemical compound with the formula HF. This colorless gas is the principal industrial source of fluorine, often in the aqueous form as hydrofluoric acid, and thus is the precursor to many important compounds including pharmaceuticals and polymers . HF is widely used in the...

    , HF, molecule is polar by virtue of polar covalent bonds — in the covalent bond electrons are displaced towards the more electronegative fluorine atom.

  • Example 2. In the ammonia
    Ammonia
    Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

    , , molecule the three N–H bonds have only a slight polarity (toward the more electronegative nitrogen atom). However, the molecule has two lone electrons in an orbital, that points towards the fourth apex of the approximate tetrahedron, (VSEPR). This orbital is not participating in covalent bonding; it is electron-rich, which results in a powerful dipole across the whole ammonia molecule.

  • Example 2.5. In the ozone
    Ozone
    Ozone , or trioxygen, is a triatomic molecule, consisting of three oxygen atoms. It is an allotrope of oxygen that is much less stable than the diatomic allotrope...

    , , molecule the two O–O bonds are nonpolar (there is no electronegativity difference between atoms of the same element). However, the distribution of other electrons is uneven — since the central atom has to share electrons with two other atoms, but each of the outer atoms has to share electrons with only one other atom, the central atom is more deprived of electrons than the others (the central atom has a formal charge
    Formal charge
    In chemistry, a formal charge is the charge assigned to an atom in a molecule, assuming that electrons in a chemical bond are shared equally between atoms, regardless of relative electronegativity....

     of +1, while the outer atoms each have a formal charge of −1/2). Since the molecule has a bent geometry, the result is a dipole across the whole ozone molecule.

Nonpolar molecules


A molecule may be nonpolar either because there is (almost) no polarity in the bonds (when there is an equal sharing of electrons between two different atoms) or because of the symmetrical arrangement of polar bonds.

Examples of household nonpolar compounds include fats, oil, and petrol/gasoline. Therefore (per the "oil and water" rule of thumb), most nonpolar molecules are water-insoluble (hydrophobic) at room temperature. However, many nonpolar organic solvents, such as turpentine
Turpentine
Turpentine is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from trees, mainly pine trees. It is composed of terpenes, mainly the monoterpenes alpha-pinene and beta-pinene...

, are able to dissolve polar substances. When comparing a polar and nonpolar molecule with similar molar masses, the polar molecule in general has a higher boiling point, because of the dipole–dipole interaction between their molecules. The most common form of such an interaction is the hydrogen bond
Hydrogen bond
A hydrogen bond is the attractive interaction of a hydrogen atom with an electronegative atom, such as nitrogen, oxygen or fluorine, that comes from another molecule or chemical group. The hydrogen must be covalently bonded to another electronegative atom to create the bond...

, which is also known as the H-bond.
  • Example 3. In the methane
    Methane
    Methane is a chemical compound with the chemical formula . It is the simplest alkane, the principal component of natural gas, and probably the most abundant organic compound on earth. The relative abundance of methane makes it an attractive fuel...

     molecule the four C–H bonds are arranged tetrahedrally around the carbon atom. Each bond has polarity (though not very strong). However, the bonds are arranged symmetrically so there is no overall dipole in the molecule.

  • Example 4. The boron trifluoride
    Boron trifluoride
    Boron trifluoride is the chemical compound with the formula BF3. This pungent colourless toxic gas forms white fumes in moist air. It is a useful Lewis acid and a versatile building block for other boron compounds.-Structure and bonding:...

     molecule has a trigonal planar arrangement of three polar bonds at 120°. This results in no overall dipole in the molecule.

  • Example 5. The oxygen
    Oxygen
    Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

     molecule does not have polarity in the covalent bond because of equal electronegativity, hence there is no polarity in the molecule.

Hybrids


Large molecules that have one end with polar groups attached and another end with non polar groups are good surfactant
Surfactant
Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension of a liquid, the interfacial tension between two liquids, or that between a liquid and a solid...

s. They can aid in the formation of stable emulsions, or blends, of water and fats. Surfactants reduce the inter facial tension between oil and water by adsorbing at the liquid–liquid interface.

Predicting molecule polarity

  • This classification table gives a good general understanding of predicting molecular dipole of some general molecular structures. However, one should not interpret it literally:

























    Formula Description Example
    Polar AB Linear Molecules CO
    HAx Molecules with a single H HF
    AxOH Molecules with an OH at one end C2H5OH
    OxAy Molecules with an O at one end H2O
    NxAy Molecules with an N at one end NH3
    Nonpolar A2 Diatomic molecules of the same element O2
    CxAy Most carbon compounds CO2
    >
    • Determining the point group
      Point group
      In geometry, a point group is a group of geometric symmetries that keep at least one point fixed. Point groups can exist in a Euclidean space with any dimension, and every point group in dimension d is a subgroup of the orthogonal group O...

       is a useful way to predict polarity of a molecule. In general, a molecule will not possess dipole moment, if the individual bond dipole moments of the molecule cancel each other out. This is because dipole moments are euclidean vector quantities with magnitude and direction, and a two equal vectors who oppose each other will cancel out.


    Any molecule with an centre of inversion ( "i" ) or a horizontal mirror plane ( "σh ") will not possess dipole moments.
    Likewise, a molecule with more than one Cn axis will not possess dipole moment because dipole moments cannot lie in more than one dimension
    Dimension
    In physics and mathematics, the dimension of a space or object is informally defined as the minimum number of coordinates needed to specify any point within it. Thus a line has a dimension of one because only one coordinate is needed to specify a point on it...

    . As a consequence of that constraint, all molecules with D symmetry (Schönflies notation) will, therefore, not have dipole moment because, by definition, D point groups have two or multiple Cn axis.

    Since C1, Cs,C∞h Cn and Cnv point group
    Point group
    In geometry, a point group is a group of geometric symmetries that keep at least one point fixed. Point groups can exist in a Euclidean space with any dimension, and every point group in dimension d is a subgroup of the orthogonal group O...

    s do not have a centre of inversion, horizontal mirror planes or multiple Cn axis, molecules in one of those point groups will have dipole moment.

    See also

    • Bond dipole moment
      Bond dipole moment
      The bond dipole moment uses the idea of electric dipole moment to measure the polarity of a chemical bond within a molecule. The bond dipole μ is given by:\mu = \delta \, d....

    • Solubility
      Solubility
      Solubility is the property of a solid, liquid, or gaseous chemical substance called solute to dissolve in a solid, liquid, or gaseous solvent to form a homogeneous solution of the solute in the solvent. The solubility of a substance fundamentally depends on the used solvent as well as on...

    • Colloid
      Colloid
      A colloid is a substance microscopically dispersed evenly throughout another substance.A colloidal system consists of two separate phases: a dispersed phase and a continuous phase . A colloidal system may be solid, liquid, or gaseous.Many familiar substances are colloids, as shown in the chart below...

    • Detergent
      Detergent
      A detergent is a surfactant or a mixture of surfactants with "cleaning properties in dilute solutions." In common usage, "detergent" refers to alkylbenzenesulfonates, a family of compounds that are similar to soap but are less affected by hard water...

    • Dipole
      Dipole
      In physics, there are several kinds of dipoles:*An electric dipole is a separation of positive and negative charges. The simplest example of this is a pair of electric charges of equal magnitude but opposite sign, separated by some distance. A permanent electric dipole is called an electret.*A...

    • Covalent bond
      Covalent bond
      A covalent bond is a form of chemical bonding that is characterized by the sharing of pairs of electrons between atoms. The stable balance of attractive and repulsive forces between atoms when they share electrons is known as covalent bonding....

    • Electronegativity
      Electronegativity
      Electronegativity, symbol χ , is a chemical property that describes the tendency of an atom or a functional group to attract electrons towards itself. An atom's electronegativity is affected by both its atomic number and the distance that its valence electrons reside from the charged nucleus...

    • Dielectric
      Dielectric
      A dielectric is an electrical insulator that can be polarized by an applied electric field. When a dielectric is placed in an electric field, electric charges do not flow through the material, as in a conductor, but only slightly shift from their average equilibrium positions causing dielectric...

    • Chemical bonding