Forces Between CH4 Molecules

To be more precise, methane (CH4) is a saturated hydrocarbon. It is a gas at normal room temperatures. It is a non-toxic, odourless gas with no discernible colour or smell. The gas has a melting point of -182.5 degrees Celsius and a boiling point of -162 degrees Celsius.

Alessandro Volta made the initial scientific discovery of methane in 1776. It contributes to the buildup of heat inside the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s a component of biogas and it catches fire easily.

It’s true that methane is less dense than air. Methane emissions into the environment are caused by livestock and other farming activities.

Focusing on the intermolecular forces between methane molecules, this article will describe the many types of intermolecular forces and how they work.

To that end, what kinds of interactions do methane molecules have with one another? Methane molecules are attracted to one another by a force known as the London force, sometimes known as the dispersion force. A non-polar molecule suddenly becomes polar, which causes this effect.

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Why do molecules of Methane (CH4) interact with one another via London Forces?

Methane molecules are not strongly attracted to electric fields. There is no overall dipole moment.

Since methane does not have a persistent dipole moment, there are no dipole-dipole forces or dipole-induced dipole forces.

When electrons are unsymmetrical about the nucleus, the molecule instantly acquires polarity due to the constant mobility of the electrons. When one molecule undergoes an immediate dipole, the subsequent molecule experiences an induced dipole as a result.

Due to the presence of a transient dipole moment, the two molecules are drawn near one another.

This attractive force is referred to variously as the London force, the dispersion force, or the instantaneous dipole induced dipole force.

The factors influencing London’s forces

As far as Van der Waals forces go, London’s are the weakest. The London force strength varies amongst compounds for a number of reasons. To break it down, the variables are

The first factor is the size and mass of the molecules; the dispersion forces exerted by larger and heavier molecules are greater than those exerted by smaller and lighter ones.

The valence electrons are further from the nucleus in bigger molecules, making it easier for them to form temporary dipoles.

The dispersive forces exerted by, say, nonane, are more extensive than those exerted by ethane.

The ability to quickly and easily produce a temporary dipole is known as polarizability, which is the subject of our second definition. When dealing with larger molecules, polarisation is a simple process. Compounds that can be easily polarised have a large London force extent.

Octane, for instance, has more extensive dispersion effects than methane.

Third, the molecule’s shape indicates its interactable surface area. As the accessible surface area grows, so does the reach of the London forces.

The London force extent of n-pentane, for instance, is greater than that of neo-pentane.

Fourth, proximity: the intermolecular force is greatest when molecules are close together.

For instance, once molecular distances reach 500 pm or greater, London force is no longer significant.

How come Methane (CH4) is not a polar gas?

A molecule’s polarity is determined by whether or not it has a net dipole moment. It is important to note that the net dipole moment is dependent on

There is a correlation between the bond dipole moment and

Electronegativity dissimilarity between bonding atoms

The molecule’s geometry and symmetry

The sole type of bond present in methane is the “C-H” bond.

Both C and H have relatively high electronegativity, at 2.55 and 2.2, respectively. The calculated dissimilarity is 0.35. Although it is not particularly huge, the bonds are discernibly polar.

The tetrahedral geometry of methane results in a zero vector sum for the dipole moments of all bonds.

Because of its symmetry, methane is not polar.

For what reason do Methane molecules not form hydrogen bonds with one another?

When hydrogen atoms connect, they exert a unique dipole-dipole force. Methane doesn’t experience dipole-dipole forces since its dipole moment is zero.

When H is combined with a strongly electronegative element, like F, O, or N, hydrogen bonding is the result. H is present here in addition to C.

Forms of Intermolecular Attraction

The forces of attraction and repulsion are always present between atoms and molecules that come into contact with one another. Intermolecular forces are the ones that act between molecules.

We refer to the attractive forces between molecules as Van der Waals forces, and they are proportional to the inverse sixth power of the distance between them. Instances of Van der Waals forces

Forces in London or Forces in Dispersion

As far as Van der Waals forces go, this is the weakest possible. No matter how polar or non-polar a molecule is, it still interacts with other molecules via the London force. It’s possible that additional forces are at play.

Due to the presence of instantaneous dipole moment, it evolves. These forces are significant only over very limited ranges of motion.

Methane molecule interactions, to give just one example.

The forces exerted between dipoles are referred to as dipole-dipole interactions.

The Van der Waals forces are the strongest forces known to science. This phenomenon occurs between molecules that have a persistent dipole moment.

When molecules form partial charges at the ends of a dipole, the charge pulls them together. The strength of a force diminishes with increasing intermolecular separation.

Take the attraction and repulsion of HCl molecules as an illustration.

The induction of repulsion between two dipoles

When one of the molecules is a permanent dipole while the other is not, an interaction of this kind is present. When a molecule has a persistent dipole moment, it begins to accumulate partial charges.

As a result of the deformation of the electron cloud caused by these charges, the non-polar molecule develops an induced dipole moment.

This pair of dipoles interacts by a force known as dipole induction.

One such example is the attraction that exists between water molecules and oxygen gas molecules.

Attractive ion-ion and ion-dipole interactions rely on the inverse square root of the distance between molecules.

Due to the perfect segregation of charge in ions, interactions between ions and between ions and dipoles are far stronger than Van der Waals forces. Inadequate force is exerted because dipoles contain only partial charges.

Ranking the attractive forces between molecules

The order of magnitude of the London forces is: (ion-ion) > (ion-dipole) > (induced dipole-dipole) >

For all of these forces, the attractive force grows stronger as distance decreases.

When the distance between two molecules is small enough, repulsive force, rather than attractive force, exists due to repulsion between the electron clouds and nuclei.

Comparing the Effects of Intramolecular and Intermolecular Forces

Forces between molecules, whether attractive or repulsive, are said to be intermolecular.

Intermolecular forces of attraction between water molecules allow water to exist in liquid form.

The force that holds a single molecule together is called the intramolecular force.

Methane, with its covalent link between carbon and hydrogen, exhibits intramolecular force as an example. Dispersive forces between two methane molecules constitute the intermolecular force in methane.

In the figure below, bonding in the HCl molecule is used to illustrate both intermolecular and intramolecular forces.

Understanding the Forces Within and Between Molecules: An Article from Khan Academy

Because the bonds in methane are generated through electron sharing and the difference in electronegativity is minor, methane is a covalent molecule.

Hybridization provides an explanation for the bonding in methane. When an atom undergoes hybridization, orbitals of similar size, shape, and energy are combined. The carbon atom is the most significant one in methane.

Carben has an electrical configuration of 1s2 2s2 2p2. Only two electrons are unpaired.

With the up-grading of an electron from 2s to 2p, the new arrangement looks like this: 1s2 2s1 2p3. There are now four H atoms and four unpaired electrons.

While carbon contains one 2s and three 2p orbitals, hydrogen only has one 1s orbital for overlap. S-s and s p do not have the same overlap efficiency. Thus, to explain the bonding efficiently, we use hybridization.

Four sp3 hybrid equivalent orbitals are formed when four inequivalent orbitals (1 2s and 3 2p) are combined.

Each H- atom overlaps with one sp3 hybrid orbital to form a sigma bond.

That molecule has a tetrahedral shape.

In addition, I have dedicated an entire blog post to discussing the nature of the bonds in CH4 molecules. The lewis structure of CH4 should be read.

Methane (CH4) Gas Origins

Methane gas is mostly produced by the combustion of fossil fuels.

Wetlands produce over 30% of the world’s methane gas (including ponds, lakes, and rivers)

Termites create methane gas every day.

The oceans are a natural supply of methane, as stated above. The oceans contribute roughly 10% of the world’s total methane.

When decomposing, dead and decaying organic waste emits methane gas, which is one of the benefits of composting.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is released in enormous quantities by livestock farms as a byproduct of the animals’ digestive processes.

Sludge generated during water treatment is decomposed.

For example:

When coal, natural gas, or oil is extracted, methane is discharged into the atmosphere.


In many fields, methane is useful. It finds application in

To bolster plant growth, use: • Fertilizer

What to Do in a Freezing Situation: • Use Antifreeze

• Gas cookers

Motor Vehicles (as fuel)

• sanitation


The organic molecule methane is a gas at room temperature.

Van der Waals forces can be broken down into three distinct classes. The London force is the only intermolecular force of attraction between methane molecules.

Dipole-dipole forces and dipole-induced dipole forces are the last two types. Non-polar compounds, like methane, are not easily dissolved in water.

Methane has sp3 hybridization and tetrahedral geometry, making it a covalent compound.

Best Wishes for Enjoyable Reading!

Read more: Will Salt Water Dry Up?

Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.


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