Sun November 13, 2011 By:

how to know which molecule is polar or non polar?

Expert Reply
Sun November 13, 2011
The two important points to remember while determining the polarity of the molecule are:
1. Consider the polarity of individual bonds
2. Consider the geometry of the molecule.
To determine if a molecule (or ion) is polar or non-polar, you must determine both factors.
  • If all bonds are non-polar, then the whole molecule is non-polar regardless of its shape.
  • If there is symmetry in the molecule so that the polarity of the bonds cancels out, then the molecule is non-polar. A common example of this is carbon dioxide, or CO2. The molecule is linear, and its Lewis dot structure is like this: O=C=O (this doesn't include two sets of lone pairs on each oxygen). The carbon-oxygen bond is a polar bond, but because they are exactly opposed to each other, the molecule is overall non-polar. Another example of this is CCl4, where each carbon-chlorine bond is polar, but the molecule is non-polar. Here, how they cancel out isn't as obvious, but they do. CCl4 is a tetrahedral molecule, and the 4 C-Cl polar bonds cancel each other out.
  • If there are polar bonds but there is no symmetry such that they cancel each other out, the overall molecule is polar. Water is a typical example of this. The two O-H bonds are oriented in a V-shape, and so the don't cancel out. Similarly, CH3Cl is also polar. It is the same shape as CCl4 (see above), but now it doesn't have the same symmetry because there is only one C-Cl bond and the bonds don't cancel out anymore.

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