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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 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: a separation of positive and negative electric charge. ï  
are denoted as 
(delta plus) and  (delta minus). These symbols were introduced by Christopher Ingold and his wife Dr. Hilda
Usherwood in 1926.Atoms with high electronegativities ² such as fluorine, oxygen, and nitrogen ² exert a
greater pull on electrons than atoms with lower electronegativities. In a bonding situation this can lead to
unequal sharing of electrons between atoms, as electrons will spend more time closer to the atom with the
higher electronegativity.Bonds can fall between one of two extremes ² being completely non-polar or
completely polar. A completely non-polar bond occurs when the electronegativities are identical and therefore
possess a difference of zero. A completely polar bond is more correctly termed ionic bonding and occurs when
the difference between electronegativities is large enough that one atom takes an electron from the other. The
terms "polar" and "non-polar" bonds usually refer to covalent bonds. 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.

A molecule is composed of one or more chemical bonds (covalent bonds) between molecular orbitals of
different atoms. A molecule may be polar either as a result of polar bonds due to differences in electronegativity
as described above, or as a result of an asymmetric arrangement of non-polar covalent bonds and non-bonding
pairs of electrons known as a full molecular orbital.

Example 1. The hydrogen fluoride, HF, molecule is polar by virtue of polar covalent bonds ² in the covalent
bond electrons are displaced towards the more electronegative fluorine atom.

Example 2. In the ammonia, NH3, molecule the three N±H bonds have only a slight polarity (towards 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, O3, molecule the two O±O bonds are non-polar (there is no electronegativity
difference between atoms of the same element). However, the distribution of other electrons is uneven ² since
the central atom has to share electrons with two other atoms, but each of the outer atoms only have to share
electrons with one other atom, the central atom is more deprived of electrons than the others (the central atom
has a formal charge of +1, while the outer atoms each have a formal charge of í1/2). Since the molecule has a
bent geometry, this results in a dipole across the whole ozone molecule.

In a similar manner, a molecule may be non-polar either because there is (almost) no polarity in the bonds or
because of the symmetrical arrangement of polar bonds.
Example 3. In the methane molecule (CH4) 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 molecule (BF3) has a trigonal planar arrangement of three polar bonds at 120o.
This results in no overall dipole in the molecule.

Example 5. The oxygen molecule (O2) does not have polarity in the covalent bond because of equal
electronegativity, hence there is no polarity in the molecule.



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


Examples of common household polar molecules include sugar, for instance the sucrose 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


A non-polar compound occurs when there is an equal sharing of electrons between two different atoms.
Examples of household non-polar compounds include fats, oil and petrol/gasoline. Therefore (per the "oil and
water" rule of thumb), most non-polar molecules are water insoluble (hydrophobic) at room temperature.
However many non-polar organic solvents, such as turpentine, are able to dissolve polar substances. When
comparing a polar and non-polar molecule with similar molar masses, the polar molecule generally 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, which is also known as the H-bond.

Large molecules that have one end with polar groups attached and another end with non-polar groups are good
surfactants. They can aid in the formation of stable emulsions, or blends, of water and fats. Surfactants reduce
the interfacial tension between oil and water by adsorbing at the liquid±liquid interface.