Is CH4 an ionic or a covalent compound?

Methane is a colourless, odourless gas having the chemical formula CH4, which means one carbon atom is linked to four hydrogen atoms. It’s a hydride from the 14th group (chemical compounds consisting of hydrogen atoms and group 14 atoms).

Natural gas is made up primarily of methane, which is the most basic alkane. Anaerobic bacteria found in landfills and in the guts of ruminants create it.

Human activities contribute for over 70% of methane emissions, making it one of the most significant greenhouse gases. Pure methane is a high-energy feedstock that is used to generate power, heat homes, and cook. It has a 55.7 MJ/kg energy density.

Alessandro Volta, an Italian physicist, was the first to recognise methane scientifically in 1776.

The majority of the students are unsure if methane is ionic or covalent. It’s made even more perplexing by the existence of four hydrogen atoms. In this blog, I will give you with clear solutions to this topic as well as an in-depth discussion of bonding ideas.

Is CH4 (methane) a covalent compound? In the next section, we’ll find out.

Four hydrogen atoms and one carbon atom make up a methane molecule. The electronegativity of hydrogen is 2.2, whereas the electronegativity of carbon is 2.55.

The electronegativity difference between the constituent atoms in an ionic compound is more than 1.7. However, as you can see, the difference in electronegativity between carbon and hydrogen is 2.55-2.2 = 0.35, which is far less than 1.7. Methane, which has four C-H bonds, is a covalent compound because the electronegativity difference between them is relatively minimal.

Four hydrogen atoms share electrons with the four outer electrons of carbon, giving in entire outer shells for all five atoms.

As the outer electrons of hydrogen and carbon atoms swap, hydrogen takes on the electronic configuration of helium, while carbon takes on the electronic configuration of neon. As a result, both the hydrogen and carbon atoms have outer shells with 8 electrons when establishing covalent connections.

That was a succinct response. Let me now go into the covalent nature of methane in further depth.

Let’s start with the basics before delving into the specifics of covalent bonding in methane. First, I’ll go through the definition of bonding and the many types of bonding.

What is the definition of chemical bonding?

The formation of a chemical compound by forging a chemical bond between two or more atoms, molecules, or ions is known as chemical bonding. Chemical bonds hold the atoms of the resultant molecule together.

In most circumstances, valence electrons are engaged in chemical bonding, while inner shell electrons may also be involved in other cases. The electrons in an atom’s valence shell, or outermost shell, are known as valence electrons.

Have you ever considered why all atoms are involved in chemical bonding? I’ve got the solution for you. Continue reading…

The ground state is preferred by all atoms. This is the least energy-dense and most stable state. When an atom achieves octet configuration, or when its valence or outermost shell is totally filled with 8 electrons, it is the most stable. By completing the octet, all atoms attempt to reach the ground state.

Atoms participate in chemical reactions to fill the outermost shell with eight electrons. They aim to achieve this stable state by transferring electrons from one atom to another by losing, gaining, or sharing electrons. A molecule or a compound is formed when two atoms join.

Let’s look at the many forms of chemical bonds now.

Chemical Bonds: What Are They and How Do They Work?

Chemical bonds can be classed into the following categories depending on whether the atoms are entirely transferred or shared:

Bonds between ions

Covalent Bonds are a type of chemical bond that exists between two

Ionic bonds are a type of ionic bond that

An ionic connection is created when the valence (outermost) electrons of one atom are permanently transferred to another atom. Electrostatic attraction between oppositely charged ions causes these bonds to form.

When an atom loses electrons, it becomes a positively charged ion (cation), and when an atom gains electrons, it becomes a negatively charged ion (anion) (anion).

Covalent Bonds are a type of chemical bond that exists between two

Those with extraordinarily high ionisation energies can’t lose electrons, while those with extremely low electron affinity can’t accept them.

The atoms of such elements appear to share electrons with atoms of other elements or with atoms of the same element, resulting in an octet arrangement in both valence shells.

As a result, they acquire stability. In simple terms, a covalent bond is a relationship formed by the sharing of electron pairs between molecules of distinct or similar types.

Carbon Atom Covalent Bonding

Carbon’s electrical structure must gain or lose four electrons to become stable, which is implausible because:

Because six protons cannot carry ten electrons, carbon cannot gain four electrons to form C4-, leading the atom to become unstable.

Carbon cannot lose four electrons to produce C4+ because it would require a great deal of energy, and C4+ would only have two electrons retained by the proton, making it unstable once more.

Because carbon cannot take or donate electrons, the only choice is to share electrons in order to fulfil the closest noble gas configuration and form a covalent bond.

Properties of Covalent Bonds

The atoms can share more than one electron pair if sharing a single electron pair between them does not meet the octet configuration. Let’s have a look at some of the features of covalent bonds:

They’re atom-to-atom chemical connections that are exceedingly strong.

The energy content of a covalent bond is usually around 80 kilocalories per mole (kcal/mol).

After they have been formed, covalent bonds rarely break on their own.

Covalent bonds are directional because the atoms that are bonded have distinct orientations in relation to one another.

Most covalently bonded chemicals have relatively low melting and boiling points.

In molecules containing covalent bonds, the enthalpies of vaporisation and fusion are often lower.

Covalently bound molecules do not conduct electricity because they lack free electrons.

Water is insoluble for covalent molecules.


It is the quality of an atom that causes it to attract the mutual electron pair. The electronegativity of atoms is calculated using the Pauling scale.

Chemical bonds in which the electronegativity difference between two atoms in a chemical bond is more than 2.0 are referred to be ionic bonds. A covalent bond is present if the difference is less than 2.0 on the Pauling scale.

Why is CH4 classified as a covalent compound?

When it comes to methane (CH4),

The hydrogen atom has an electronegativity of 2.20.

The carbon atom’s electronegativity value is 2.55.

The H-C bond’s electronegativity difference is 2.55 – 2.20 = 0.35.

Because the electronegativity difference between C and H atoms in methane is only 0.35 on the Pauling Scale, it is a covalent molecule.

You should also read our article on CH4 Intermolecular Forces for more information on the several types of bonding that Methane (CH4) molecules have.

Methane’s Characteristics

-161.6 0C is the boiling point.

-182.6 0C melting point

8.19 kJ/mol Vaporization Enthalpy

Fusion Enthalpy: -75 kJ/mol

0.022 mg/ml solubility in water

0.0339 W/m0C Thermal Conductivity

Tetrahedral shape

Low melting and boiling points, low enthalpy of fusion, low solubility, and low thermal conductivity are all features that are similar to those of a covalent molecule. The fact that methane is a covalent molecule is reinforced by this.

Dipole moment of methane

In methane, the four hybrid orbitals are arranged in such a way that the repulsive force between them is decreased. The sp3 hybrid orbitals have a bond angle of 109.5 degrees.

The CH4 is tetrahedral in shape, and as a result of this arrangement, each bond pair is symmetrically placed and at an identical distance from one another. As a result, the dipole moments of each bond are balanced.

As a result, the net dipole moment of methane is zero. Methane is a nonpolar covalent molecule because its dipole moment is zero.

Also, take a look at the Is CH4 Polar or Nonpolar page.


To summarise, methane is the simplest of all alkanes and is a covalent molecule with a molecular mass of 16. It’s a non-toxic, flammable gas. It’s a tetrahedral molecule with four C-H bonds that are equivalent. It’s a covalent molecule because the electronegativity gap between carbon and hydrogen is so small.

I’ve covered the fundamentals of chemical bonding as well as the nature of bonds in methane in this article. In the comments section, please feel free to ask any questions you may have. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Read more: Diagram, Steps To Draw The Beryllium Bohr Model

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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