Is H3PO4 a base or an acid?

CH4 (methane) is a tetrahedral chemical with four C-H bonds, and it is an odourless, colourless, and easily combustible gas at ambient pressure and temperature. In 1776, a scientist named Alessandro Volta discovered and isolated it while examining marsh gas. It is the most straightforward alkane (acyclic saturated hydrocarbon) and a member of the 14 group halides.

Many students may have questions regarding the polarity or nonpolarity of CH4. Let us investigate if methane is polar or nonpolar and its underlying properties.

Is CH4 therefore polar or nonpolar? CH4 is a nonpolar molecule due to its tetrahedral symmetry and four identical C-H bonds. Because carbon and hydrogen have electronegativity values of 2.55 and 2.2, respectively, the partial charges are nearly zero. The electrostatic potential difference is similarly modest, resulting in an overall nonpolar molecule.

Depending on the manufacturing process, approximately 90 percent of natural gas can consist of CH4.

Methane is non-toxic, but it can explode when combined with air, and it can cause asphyxiation when it displaces oxygen and reduces oxygen levels to approximately 16 percent.

Sources of natural CH4 include the subsurface, animal digestion, and the ocean floor. The largest natural source of CH4 is the ocean floor.

This underwater reserve of CH4 is known as methane clathrate (methane ice), and it is trapped in a crystal structure resembling ice. CH4 is mostly produced by the oil and gas industry. Scientists have found the existence of the greenhouse gas CH4 on the planet Mars.

CH4 is depicted below with C-H bond lengths in picometers and bond angles of 109.5 degrees.

Polar Molecules Vs Nonpolar Molecules

Molecules containing atoms with similar electronegativity are nonpolar in nature due to the uniform distribution of charges throughout the molecule.

Polar molecules have atoms with different electronegativity, which causes the more electronegative atom to pull a greater proportion of shared bound electrons and become the negative pole, while the other atom becomes the positive pole. This page discusses the polarity of NCl3.

Other than their electronegativity, nonpolar molecules have symmetrical shapes, whereas polar molecules are asymmetric or warped.

In certain instances, nonpolar molecules contain atoms with uneven electronegativity, but due to their symmetrical form, their dipoles cancel each other out.

Polar molecules have a constant dipole moment, while nonpolar molecules have a dipole moment of zero.

Check out the rationale for Hexane’s non-polarity for your own reference.

characterization of bonds

Ionic and covalent bonds are the chemical forces that hold atoms together. In ionic and covalent compounds, the distribution of electrons between atoms differs.

Ionic Bonds: Ionic bonds form when an element with a low positive ionisation energy (which readily releases electrons) comes into contact with an element with a high negative electron affinity (or takes electrons easily).

The element with low positive ionisation energy can transfer one of its electrons to the element with strong electron affinity.

The outcome of this operation is a cation and an anion. NaCl is a common example of an ionic substance. In this instance, Na metal combines with Cl gas, transferring one electron to Cl and generating the ions Na+ and Cl-.

Ions are attracted by electrostatic forces, creating an ionic bond.

The image below is a 3D representation of sodium chloride. An ionic compound is a collection of atoms, and for NaCl, the number of Na and Cl atoms is equal.

When two atoms share electrons, covalent bonds occur. Covalent bonds are represented by H2, H2O, and NH3. The two hydrogen atoms in the H2 molecule interact via electrostatic forces.

If the attractive forces (nuclei to nuclei or electrons to electrons) are stronger than the repulsive forces (nuclei to electrons), a link will develop and electrons will be shared between the two atoms.

What distinguishes polar from nonpolar bonds?

The donation or sharing of electrons distinguishes ionic and covalent connections, however these bonding types reflect the extremes of a spectrum of electron sharing in bonding.

Variations in electron distribution between atoms are possible between ionic and covalent bonding.

In this sort of bonding, electron distribution differs because atoms do not share electrons equally; this results of an electric dipole moment, which consists of positively and negatively charged ends in a molecule.

This sort of bonding is covalent polar bonding. The figure below depicts the range of ionic character (electron distribution) in molecular bonding.

The signs + (delta plus) and (delta minus) signify charge separation resulting from the unequal distribution of electrons that generate a dipole moment.

The + represents the atom with the more positive character (one that donates more electrons), whereas the represents the atom with the more negative character (more electronegative).

The following graphic depicts the continuum of electron dispersion in molecular bonding.

Why is CH4 polarity-free?

As described previously, methane molecules consist of five atoms: four hydrogen atoms bonded tetrahedrally to a core carbon atom.

There is a negligible difference (0.35) in electronegativity between carbon and hydrogen atoms, which is insufficient to create a polar bond.

Interestingly, even if we consider the C-H bond to be polar, the polarity of each C-H bond cancels out, resulting in a nonpolar CH4 molecule.


Differences in electronegativity (EN) define bond polarity. Electronegativity refers to an atom’s ability to attract electrons in a covalent bond.

The periodic table facilitates the visualisation of patterns in atomic electronegativity. As illustrated in the diagram, the electronegativity increases from left to right and decreases from top to bottom.

Metallic elements have a weaker electron attraction than halogens and reactive nonmetals (upper right of the periodic table).

Nitrogen, Oxygen, Chlorine, and Fluorine are the elements in the periodic table with the highest electronegativity (as measured by the electronegativity factor). The alkali metals contain the atoms with the least electronegative properties (upper left).

Ionization Energy, Electron Affinity (EEA), and Electronegativity (Ei)

Electronegativity has a relationship with electron affinity and ionisation energy.

The electron affinity of an atom is its propensity to capture an electron, whereas ionisation energy is the minimal energy required to strip a gaseous atom of one of its valence electrons.

Subtracting the absolute values of electron affinity and ionisation energy allows one to predict electronegativity.

The result is unitless and matches to the values of electronegativity displayed in the periodic table for each element.

Molecular and Bond Polarity Prediction: Electronegativity and Geometry

Some rules for determining electronegativity Compare the differences in electronegativity between atoms in a bond.

Atoms with electronegativity similarities of less than 0.5 units are nonpolar covalent. Atoms in a covalent bond that differ in electronegativity by 0.5 to 2 units are polar, while those that differ by more than two units are ionic.

Nonpolar molecules feature two or more asymmetric bonds in which the dipole moments of their bonds do not cancel one other out.

Some general principles can be utilised to ascertain the polarity of molecules. The table below the subtopic serves as a guide for predicting polarity.

Check read the article on CH4 Lewis structure, Molecular Geometry, and Hybridization for additional information regarding the lewis structure and geometry of the CH4 molecule.

Additionally, Read CH4 Intermolecular Forces.

Is CH4 covalent or ionic?

Predictive molecular polarity rules

guidelines for polarity

These guidelines facilitate the prediction of molecular polarity and illustrate the significance of electronegativity and molecule structure in determining molecular polarity.

Using these criteria and electronegativity values, the polarity of various compounds can be determined.

Relevance of Methane to Industry: Applications and Environmental Concerns

The primary component of natural gas is methane. It is used to power stoves, water heaters, homes, automobiles, and turbines.

It powers turbines and steam generators to produce electricity. As a rocket fuel, it has benefits over kerosene since it produces smaller combustion molecules.

Utilized in the syn-gas process for the industrial manufacture of H2 gas.

Methane reacts with water vapour in this metal-catalyzed reaction to produce H2 and CO:

CH4 + H20 ⇌ CO + 3 H2

Transportation and production of coal, natural gas, and crude oil generate methane emissions. Agricultural and livestock activities produce methane due to the decomposition of organic waste.

Environmentalists are concerned about the effects of rising atmospheric methane levels on the environment.

Methane is 84 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (in 20 years), and its lifetime in the atmosphere is less than that of carbon dioxide.

Here is the article that explains the cause of CO2’s polarity.

The goal of environmental authorities is to reduce methane emissions.

In order to limit methane emissions, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) created voluntary and regulatory measures. Additionally, the EPA participates to the global Global Methane Initiative.

working with both the public and private sectors to reduce methane emissions.

Read more: Polarity, BrCl3 Lewis Structure, Molecular Geometry, and Hybridization

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.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Read More