NH4+: Polar or Nonpolar?

The ammonium ion is a cation with the chemical formula NH4+ with a positive charge. It is generated through protonation of the ammonia molecule. Several of you may have questions about the polarity of ammonium ion.

In this essay, I will explain whether or not the ammonium ion is polar, as well as its features and applications.

Is NH4+ therefore polar or nonpolar? The tetrahedral structure of NH4+ (Ammonium ion) renders it nonpolar in nature. All four hydrogen atoms are symmetrically connected to the nitrogen atom and neutralise the polarity of the N-H bonds, resulting in an NH4+ molecule that is nonpolar.

The protonation of ammonia produces the ammonium ion. The reaction between ammonia and proton donors.

H2O (water) + NH3 (ammonia)     ⇌    OH− (hydroxideion) + NH4+ (ammmonium ion)

The formation of ammonium ion results from the addition of one hydrogen atom to an ammonia molecule.

Ammonium ions are considered weakly basic since they react with bronsted bases to return to the ammonia molecular state. The response is as follows:

NH4+ + B ——oxidation of NH4+ ——results in HB + NH3

Due to the elimination of one hydrogen atom, the ammonium ion undergoes oxidation and forms an ammonia molecule.

The concentration of ammonium ions produced by ammonia is depending on the solution’s pH.

In the presence of water, ammonia dissociates into ammonium ions. The equilibrium reaction looks like this:

H2O (water) plus NH3 (ammonia) produces OH (hydroxide ion) and NH4+ (ammmonium ion)

As stated previously, the concentration of ammonium ions is dependent on the solution’s pH. It indicates that the generation of ammonium ions is stronger if the ph value of the solution is low, i.e. the equilibrium moves in the right direction.

And if the solution’s ph value is greater, the hydroxide ion removes the hydrogen atom from the ammonium ions to produce ammonia, i.e. the equilibrium shifts to the left.

Regarding its chemical composition, ammonium ion is composed of four hydrogen atoms and one nitrogen atom.

The nitrogen atom is the centre element surrounded symmetrically by four hydrogen atoms in a tetrahedral configuration.

Nitrogen’s electronegativity is 3.04, while hydrogen’s is 2.2. Polarity is generated across the N-H bond by the difference in their electronegativities.

Consequently, the N-H bond in the NH4+ molecule is polar. Additionally, the dipole value of NH4+ ions is not zero.

However, because of the symmetrical arrangement of N-H bonds, the dipoles cancel each other out, resulting in a nonpolar molecule.

Polar vs. Nonpolar Molecules: What’s the Difference?

There may be an overall unequal or equal distribution of charge across the atoms of molecules that are covalently bound.

The polarity of a molecule must be evaluated based on a number of characteristics that will be discussed further down.

Polar molecules: These are molecules that produce their own poles. Both the positive and negative poles are positive and negative.

These molecules do not have an equal distribution of charge across their atoms.

When the electronegativity of two covalently connected atoms differs, a polar bond is formed.

An atom with a larger electronegative charge becomes a negative pole, while an atom with a lower electronegative charge becomes a positive pole.

The net dipole moment of such molecules is determined to be non-zero. Examples of polar compounds include OF2, PF3, etc. You can investigate the explanation for PF3’s polarity.

These molecules do not create any poles over their surface. In these molecules, the distribution of charge across the atoms is uniform.

When the electronegativity of both atoms is equal, covalently bound atoms form a nonpolar connection. This is because both atoms share an identical quantity of charge.

It is also feasible for a nonpolar molecule to include polar bonds, but their polarity will cancel out due to the molecule’s geometric symmetry.

Nonpolar compounds include BH3, BeCl2, and others. You can investigate the explanation for BH3’s polarity.

Why is NH4+ hydrophilic?

The nitrogen atom occupies the centre of the trigonal pyramidal, while the four hydrogen atoms are positioned at the four corners.

The N-H bond possesses some dipole, but due to the symmetrical form of the NH4+ molecule, the four dipoles cancel each other out, rendering the molecule nonpolar.

Due to the fact that the dipoles cancel each other out, it is conceivable for a molecule to be nonpolar despite containing polar connections.

Lewis and Structural Analysis of NH4+

Nitrogen contains five valence electrons and requires three additional electrons to complete its octet. Hydrogen, on the other hand, has one valence electron and requires one more electron to be stable.

Therefore, each of the four hydrogen atoms shares an electron with nitrogen. All hydrogen is thereby stabilised.

And nitrogen has five plus four electrons, totaling nine; the plus sign on NH4+ indicates that it loses one electron.

Therefore, the total number of electrons with nitrogen in its outermost shell is 9 minus 1 = 8, completing the octet.

Consequently, the nitrogen atom is likewise stabilised.

In addition, the four bonds have a tetrahedral form. The binding angle between H-N-H is approximately 109.5 degrees.

Each of the four N-H bonds is symmetrical to the others. Below is a picture of the ammonium ion’s geometrical shape.

You can also read an article on the lewis structure of NH4+ for more information on lewis structure.

Parameters that determine a molecule’s polarity

Several factors are needed to determine if a molecule is polar or not.

Let’s discuss each individually.

Electronegativity: The term electronegativity refers to the value of an atom’s ability to attract a pair of bound electrons to its side.

Polarity across a covalent link assures the difference in electronegativity between two atoms, and vice versa.

Polarity of a molecule is directly proportional to the difference in electronegativity between its constituent atoms.

Dipole Moment: A molecule’s polarity is measured by its dipole moment. The dipole of a polar molecule is never equal to zero.

And the net dipole of nonpolar molecules equals zero. Its SI unit is the Debye, and its symbol is D.

Similarly, NH4+ (Ammonium ion) has a dipole of 0 D.

If a molecule’s form is symmetric, it is typically nonpolar, while asymmetric molecules are typically polar.

Similarly, the symmetrical tetrahedral structure of the ammonium ion cancels out the polarity of N-H bonds.

Attributes of NH4+

Ammonium has a molecular mass of 18,039 gmol1.

The formal charge assigned to ammonium ion is 1.

Its pH value is 9.25 PKA.

This cation’s molecular form is tetrahedral.

Utilizations of NH4+

Ammonium ion-formed compounds are frequently employed in the manufacturing of fertilisers.

The ammonium compounds are utilised extensively in the pharmaceutical and textile sectors.


The ammonium ion has a tetrahedral structure, meaning that all of its N-h bonds are grouped symmetrically around the nitrogen atom.

Hydrogen and nitrogen have different electronegativity. Consequently, the N-H bond is polar, resulting in a non-zero dipole moment.

The symmetrical structure of the ammonium ion cancels out the dipoles of the N-H bonds, resulting in the nonpolar NH4+ ion.

So, gentlemen, if you have any questions on the same, feel free to post them in the comments area. We will contact you as quickly as possible.

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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