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Types of intermolecular forces

Intermolecular forces are forces between molecules or noble gas atoms and can be attractive or repulsive .

Attractive intermolecular forces include:


(i)
Van der waals forces.
At a given moment in a molecule or atom, the electron cloud may not be evenly distributed all over
the molecule due constant movement of the electron cloud in the molecule or atom.
A temporary dipole on the non-polar molecule or atom is set up .
The temporary dipole set up can induce a dipole on neighbouring molecules or atoms that
approach it.
The attraction between the partially positive charged (+) end in one molecule and the partially
negative charged (-) end of the temporary dipole in another molecule or atom is called van der
Waals forces.
Van der waals forces are also called temporary dipole induced dipole forces or London dispersion
forces.
Consider a bromine molecule (Br2) and an argon atom (Ar),
+

Br Br

- +

Br Br

--- +
--

--- +
--

The temporary dipole lasts for a very short time as the electrons are in continuous motion and moving fast.
Temporary dipole (in a non-polar molecule) or permanent dipole (in a polar molecule) can induce polarity in a non
polar molecule by:
- attracting electron cloud in non-polar molecule using its positive end
- repelling electron cloud in non-polar molecule using its negative end

Definition: Van der waals forces are weak electrostatic forces of attraction between temporary dipoles of
non-polar molecules or atoms of a noble gas as a result of uneven distribution of electron cloud in the
molecule or atom.
The strength of the van der Waals forces in between molecules depends on two factors :

a) the number of electrons in the molecule:


The larger the negative charge electron cloud (and protons) in a molecule, the stronger the van der waals forces .

Substance
Number of electrons
Boiling point / K

Ne
10
23

Ar
18
87

CH3CH2CH3
26
231

CH3CH2CH2CH3
34
273

b) The number of contact points:


The greater the number of contact points between molecules, the stronger the van der waals forces .
Substance
No of electrons
Bpt / K
-

C2H6
18
185

C3H8
26
231

C(CH3)4
42
283

(CH3)2CHCH2CH3
42
301

CH3(CH2)3CH3
42
309

All molecules have van der waals forces for the following reasons:
Every molecule has electron cloud.
Every molecule has contact points.

Exercise:
Argon and ethane are isoelectronic. Argon has a boiling point of 87K while ethane has a boiling point of 185K.
(a) What do you understand by the term isoelectronic?

(b) Explain the difference in the boiling points of argon and ethane

(ii)

Permanent dipole-dipole forces.


These weak forces of attraction only exist between polar molecules e.g. H Cl, H Br etc.
Permanent dipole-dipole forces are stronger intermolecular forces than van der waals forces.

Definition: Dipole-dipole forces are weak electrostatic forces of attraction between permanent dipoles of polar
molecules.
Exercise:
1. Bromine (Br2) and ICl have 70 electrons each and molar masses of 160 and 162.5 respectively.
(a) What is the name of ICl?
(b) Which of the two substances (Br2 and ICl) has a higher boiling point? Explain.
2. Propanone (CH3COCH3) is a liquid while butane (CH3CH2CH2CH3) is a gas at room temperature. Explain.

(iii)

Hydrogen bonding.
These weak forces of attraction only exist between permanent polar molecules in which a hydrogen
atom is directly attached to fluorine, oxygen or nitrogen e.g. HF, H 2O, NH3 etc.

General conditions necessary for hydrogen bond formation


- The presence of electron deficient hydrogen especially a hydrogen atom covalently bonded to fluorine, oxygen
or nitrogen.
- The presence of a lone pair of electrons on fluorine, oxygen or nitrogen atom of the adjacent molecule.
All the two conditions above must be satisfied for a hydrogen bond to be formed.
Definition: A hydrogen bond is a weak electrostatic force of attraction between a hydrogen atom covalently
bonded to a highly electronegative atom (F, O or N) of a molecule and the lone pair of electrons on a highly
electronegative atom (F, O or N) of the adjacent molecule .
Hydrogen bonds

The average number of hydrogen bonds per molecule depends:


The number of hydrogen atoms directly attached to fluorine, oxygen or nitrogen in the molecule .
The number of lone pair of electrons present on fluorine, oxygen or nitrogen in the molecule .
- The table below gives an illustration
Molecule No of H-atoms on F, O or N
No of lone pairs on F, O or N
Average no of H-bond per
molecule
HF
1
3
1
NH3
3
1
1
H2O
2
2
2
Note:
- The more polar the H F, H O or H N bond, the stronger the hydrogen bond.
- The covalent bond and hydrogen bond angle is usually 180o to permit maximum hydrogen bond strength.
- Extensive hydrogen bonds between water molecules are responsible for the very high boiling point of
water.
- The strength of intermolecular forces is of the order van der waals < dipole dipole < hydrogen bond.