Is NH3 Ionic Or Covalent?

Do you know what the greatest amount of fish excrement contains? Ammonia! Yes, you read correctly.

Composed of nitrogen and hydrogen, ammonia (NH3) has the chemical formula NH3. The gas is colourless. It has an especially intense odour. It is present in minute amounts in the air and soil. It results from the decomposition of nitrogenous organic materials such as urea.

Typically found in aquatic plants and algae inhabiting lakes and streams. It can be hazardous in minute levels to humans.

Ammonia is a binary compound, which means it is composed of two atom kinds that are not equivalent.

It is also the simplest binary hydride of pnictogen. Standard pressure causes NH3 to boil at 33.34 °C (28.012 °F) at 33.34 °C (28.012 °F). It must be stored at a low temperature or under pressure.

This article will investigate whether ammonia is a covalent or ionic molecule.

Is NH3 therefore ionic or covalent? Ammonia is a covalent molecule due to the 0.9 difference in electronegativity between hydrogen and nitrogen atoms. Atoms of nitrogen and hydrogen share electrons to create a single covalent bond, resulting in the production of the covalent NH3 molecule.

Atoms of nonmetals such as nitrogen and hydrogen are in their natural state when united.

The chemical has no tendency to absorb or donate electrons, nor does it tend to share their valence. This transforms ammonia into a covalent molecule.

Why does ammonia form a covalent bond?

Due to the difference in electronegativity between nitrogen and hydrogen, ammonia is covalent. The atomic number of nitrogen is seven, whereas that of hydrogen is one.

Nitrogen has two electrons in the first shell and five electrons in the second shell, whereas hydrogen has three electrons in the first shell and two electrons in the second shell.

Hydrogen contains a total of one electron in the first shell. If nitrogen is to become inert, its second shell must include three more electrons.

The stabilisation of a nitrogen atom requires a total of three hydrogen atoms. In contrast, all three hydrogens require one electron to be stable.

This calculation demonstrates that nitrogen has room for three additional electrons and could readily share its electrons with three hydrogen atoms.

Therefore, three hydrogen atoms will react with a single nitrogen atom to exchange electrons and become inert.

This type of reaction covalentizes a molecule.

Applying Fajan’s rule also justifies the covalent nature of ammonia. Positive ion in NH3 is the hydrogen cation (H+), and the negative ion is nitrogen (N-).

The anion (-ve ion) is considerably greater in size than the cation (+ve ion). It implies that Fajan’s rule is responsible for the covalent character of the ammonia molecule.

What is the definition of a covalent compound?

When two non-metallic elements share electrons to produce a stable covalent molecule. These compounds are inert because they share an equal number of electrons. The bonds present in covalent substances are known as covalent bonds.

These ties can be classified into three groups:

  1. Single covalent bond
  2. Double covalent bond
  3. Triple covalent

Single covalent bonds do share a single electron with each other. Ammonia is an excellent illustration of solitary covalent bonds.

To complete valence, double covalent bonds share two electrons with another atom. Specifically, atmospheric oxygen (O2).

Triple covalent bonds include the sharing of three or more electrons between two atoms to generate an inert molecule. Example: N2.

You may refer to O2’s covalent bonds.

Conditions necessary to produce a covalent compound

Both atoms must possess a high ionisation potential.

Both atoms must possess a strong electron affinity.

  1. The difference in electronegativity should be zero or negligible

Covalent Polar and Nonpolar Compounds

Polar covalent compounds are those in which the distance between the shared pair of electrons and the two atoms is unequal.

When one atom’s electronegativity is greater than the other, it tends to attract electrons of lower electronegativity to its side.

This results in a slight negative charge on the atom with the greater electronegativity and a slight positive charge on the other atom. A compound is considered a polar covalent compound in this instance.

Such as Hydrogen Fluoride, ammonia, and water.

Nonpolar covalent compounds are those in which the common pair of electrons are at the same distance from both atoms. When the electronegativity of both atoms is equivalent, this occurs.

These types of covalent compounds are known as nonpolar covalent compounds because their electrons are shared equally. For example H2, O2, N3.

Consult the article regarding the polarity of H2.

The characteristics of covalent compounds

At typical room temperature and pressure, they can exist in solid, liquid, or gas form.

Low melting and boiling temperatures

Insoluble in water but soluble in organic liquids

  1. Ineffective electrical conductor

What are Ionic Substances?

A metallic element and a non-metallic element react to generate ionic compounds. Metal donates electrons and nonmetals accept electrons.

Electrovalent substances and ionic compounds are identical. Example: NaCl, MgCl2.

The attributes of ionic compounds

These are solid, tough, but fragile.

  1. An excellent conductor of electricity when melted
  2. elevated melting and boiling temperatures
  3. water-soluble but organic solvent-insoluble

Characteristics of ammonia

Chemical Qualities

When heated, ammonia dissociates into its constituent constituents, nitrogen and hydrogen.

In the interaction between water and ammonia, ammonium hydroxide is produced.

In the presence of an acid, ammonia produces the equivalent salt.

Ammonia does not sustain combustion and does not burn in air.

  1. When subjected to catalytic oxidation, ammonia produces water, nitric oxide, and eventually nitrogen dioxide.

When combined with hydrochloric acid, ammonia produces dense, white vapours.

Physical attributes

This gas is colourless.

It has an awful odour.

It has a vapour density of 8.5, which is lower than the air density. Therefore, downward displacement is utilised to gather ammonia from the atmosphere.

It is fundamental in nature.

  1. Highly water-soluble

Change the colour of red litmus to blue.

Atomic Structure of Ammonia

The VSEPR theory predicts that ammonia has the shape of a triangular pyramid. The experimentally determined bond angle is 106.7 degrees.

The centre nitrogen atom, which possesses five outer valence electrons, acquires one electron from each hydrogen atom, for a total of eight electrons.

These eight electrons are organised tetrahedrally into three electron pairs.

At normal temperature, the ammonia molecule flips itself upside down. A related comparison is an umbrella flipped inside out by a strong wind.

Applications of ammonia

It is utilised as a refrigerant cooling agent due to its quick evaporation and cooling properties. They are referred to as chlorofluorocarbons.

  1. Explosives manufacture requires ammonia.

It is possible to use ammonia as a cleaning agent.

It is an important component of fertilisers.


Ammonia is a covalent molecule because its electrons are strongly distributed. It is made of of hydrogen and nitrogen. Each hydrogen atom lacks one electron to attain the inertness of helium. Nitrogen is missing three electrons to have a complete outer shell. Therefore, each hydrogen atom shares electrons with the three outermost electrons of nitrogen.

The nitrogen atom is the core atom in ammonia, whereas the hydrogen atoms are connected to the nitrogen atom. There are three valence electrons in the nitrogen atom and one valence electron in the hydrogen atom.

The strong N–H single bonds that form when a hydrogen atom shares an electron with a nitrogen atom hold an ammonia molecule (NH 3) together. Therefore, all four atoms have entire outer shells.

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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