Strong or Weak Intermolecular Forces in CO2

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is an odourless, acidic gas with the chemical formula CO2. It’s widely used in the food, chemical, and winemaking industries, as well as in fire extinguishers, agriculture, and the oil business.

It is a tiny component of the earth’s atmosphere, derived from natural and human causes such as decomposition, respiration, burning of carbon-containing compounds, deforestation, and others.

However, as a result of human activity, its atmospheric concentration has been steadily growing, disrupting the natural equilibrium and contributing to global warming.

We will present essential information on carbon dioxide in this post, such as its structure, intermolecular forces, polarity, and so on.

So, what are the intermolecular forces in CO2? Because carbon dioxide is a linear, non-polar molecule, London dispersion forces or Van der Walls forces are the only intermolecular interactions present.

What are Intermolecular Forces and How Do They Work?

The attractive or repulsive forces that exist between atoms, molecules, or ions of a substance when they are positioned close together are known as intermolecular forces.

These forces mediate the interaction between the substance’s atoms or molecules, and so are responsible for the majority of its physical and chemical properties.

The interactions that create intermolecular forces are as follows:

Interaction of Dipoles:

As forces of attraction, polar molecules such as HCl and NH3 have dipole-dipole interactions. Because of variances in the electronegativity of atoms, these have permanent dipoles.

Electrons congregate at one end of the molecule with stronger electronegativity in a dipole-dipole interaction.

As a result, one end of the molecule gains a partial negative charge, while the other gains a partial positive charge, resulting in a polar molecule.

Because the chlorine atom is more electronegative than the hydrogen atom in an HCl molecule, electrons gather near the chlorine atom, causing it to become partly negative.

The hydrogen, on the other hand, becomes somewhat positive. When two molecules of HCl move closer together, the positive end (H-end) of one molecule attracts the negative end (Cl-end) of another molecule and forms a bond.

Interactions between ions and dipoles:

An ion and a polar molecule have this type of interaction. The ion-dipole interaction causes ionic compounds to dissolve in polar liquids. The strength of this contact is determined by things including as

• The ion’s charge and size

• The size of a polar molecule and the magnitude of its dipole moment

When an ionic material, such as NaCl, dissolves in a polar solvent, such as H20, the former decomposes into its constituent ions, Na+ and Cl-.

A dipole is formed when the hydrogen end of a water molecule becomes partially positive and the oxygen end becomes partially negative.

Thus, positively charged sodium ions attract the water molecule’s negative end (O-end), whereas negatively charged chloride ions attract the water molecule’s positive end (H-end) and form a link.

Dipole Interactions Caused by Ions:

An ion interacts with a non-polar molecule in this way. In this situation, the ion’s charge deforms the electron cloud of a non-polar molecule, causing it to become polarised and establish a weak bond.

This interaction’s intensity is determined by –

• Ion ion ion ion ion ion

• Polarisability of the non-polar molecule is easy.

eMedicalPrep | Intermolecular Forces

Interaction of Dipoles Caused by Dipoles:

A polar molecule having a permanent dipole interacts with a non-polar molecule in this manner.

A polar molecule deforms the electron cloud of an electrically neutral molecule and generates polarity in it, similar to ion-induced dipole interactions. The intensity of this interaction is determined by –

• A polar molecule’s dipole moment

• The electrically neutral molecule’s polarisability

Dispersion forces or London forces:

The weakest intermolecular forces are London forces. The creation of an instantaneous dipole causes this type of interaction between two electrically symmetrical non-polar molecules.

An instantaneous dipole is thought to form in a non-polar molecule as a result of a momentary distortion of its electron cloud.

As a result, for a little period of time, one portion of the molecule becomes slightly positive while the other becomes slightly negative.

This immediate dipole affects the electron density of nearby non-polar molecules, causing them to form a dipole.

The strength of this form of interaction is determined by the polarisability of molecules and happens only over a limited distance.

Bonding of Hydrogen:

Between hydrogen and extremely electronegative atoms like oxygen, nitrogen, or fluorine, electrostatic attraction develops.

Covalently bound H-O, H-N, or H-F generate an extremely strong dipole in this unique case of dipole-dipole interaction.

The coulombic interaction between the hydrogen atom of one molecule and the lone-pair electrons of electronegative atoms like F, O, or N of other molecules determines the strength of the hydrogen bond.

What Intermolecular Forces Do Intermolecular Forces Have in CO2?

The chart below can be used to calculate the intermolecular force for any molecule.

Are there any ions present?

There are no ions in CO2 since it is a non-ionic species with no positive or negative charge.

Is there a presence of polar molecules?

When drawing the Lewis structure of CO2, carbon does not have an octet since it is positioned in the centre with two single C-O bonds.

To build a double bond with carbon, lone pairs from each surrounding oxygen atom are utilised.

As a result, carbon has two electron domains with no lone pair, and CO2 has linear geometry with a bond angle of 180o, according to VSEPR theory.

Because oxygen atoms are more electronegative than carbon atoms, they draw electron clouds toward themselves, resulting in two poles of equal magnitude being formed in opposite directions, cancelling out each other’s influence. As a result, there are no polar molecules present.

As a result, the only intermolecular interactions in CO2 are London or Dispersion forces.

Despite being non-polar, a brief distortion in the electronic charge distribution causes an instantaneous dipole to form on the CO2 molecule, further distorting the electron density of the other CO2 molecule.

They produce a weak link between these two transient dipoles.

Intramolecular vs. Intermolecular Forces: What’s the Difference?

Intermolecular ForcesIntramolecular Forces
These forces occur between molecules themselvesThese forces occur between atoms within a molecule
Weaker forcesStronger forces
Determine the state of matter and its physical propertiesDetermine chemical behavior of a substance
Are attractive in natureForm chemical bonds
Types of intermolecular forces include –London or Dispersion forcesDipole-Dipole interactionIon-dipole interactionHydrogen bondingTypes of Intramolecular forces includeIonic bonding: In this type of bonding, the complete transfer of electrons occurs between atoms having differences in electronegativities.Covalent bonding: In this type of bonding, sharing of electrons occurs between two non-metal atoms having similar electronegativity.Metallic bonding: In this type of bonding, a strong force occurs between delocalized valence electrons and positively charged metal nuclei within the metal structure.

Intermolecular Forces’ Relative Strength

Intermolecular ForcesOccurs betweenRelative Strength
Ion-Dipole interactionIon and polar molecule1. (Strongest)
Hydrogen bondingHydrogen atom and Oxygen/Fluorine/Nitrogen2.
Dipole-dipole interactionPartially oppositely charged ions3.
London or Dispersion forcesInstantaneously induced dipoles4. (Weakest)

Is CO2 non-polar or polar?

CO2’s polarity is determined by –

• Polar bonding are present

• The orientation of molecules

Bonds Between Polar Objects:

Between Carbon and Oxygen in CO2, there are two double bonds.

Because oxygen is a more electronegative atom than carbon, it pulls the electron density towards itself, forming two polar bonds.

Molecular Orientation is a term used to describe the orientation of molecules.

CO2 has a linear molecular geometry with a bond angle of 180 degrees. It indicates that one carbon atom is the central atom, with two oxygen atoms on either side of it forming a straight line.

So, on either side of the carbon atom, there are two polar bonds of equal magnitude, which cancel each other out and make the CO2 molecule non-polar.

Which of the following has the strongest intermolecular forces:

CO2 vs. SO2.

SO2 molecules are held together by an intermolecular force:

Because Oxygen is more electronegative than Sulphur, it pulls the electron cloud towards itself, forming two polar bonds.

Furthermore, it possesses a V-shaped or bent molecular geometry with a bond angle of 119o, which means that bond polarities do not cancel out, and SO2 becomes a polar molecule.

As a result, dipole-dipole interactions operate as an intermolecular force between SO2 molecules in addition to London forces.

CO2 molecules are held together by an intermolecular force:

Because CO2 is a linear molecule, bond polarities cancel out. As a result, it becomes non-polar, with London forces acting as the only intermolecular interaction between CO2 molecules.

Because the strength of the Dipole-dipole contact is greater than the London forces, SO2 molecules have a stronger intermolecular force than CO2 molecules, as previously stated.

CO2 vs. CH4

Between CH4 molecules, there is an intermolecular force:

The electronegativity difference between carbon and hydrogen is insufficient to form a polar bond, thus CH4 has a symmetrical tetrahedral molecular geometry.

As a result, London forces are the only intermolecular forces that exist between CH4 molecules. Read the CH4 Intermolecular Forces article.

CO2 molecules are held together by an intermolecular force:

London forces occur between CO2 molecules because it is a linear and non-polar molecule.

Both molecules have similar intermolecular forces in this situation. However, the strength of London forces is proportional to the size of the molecule, therefore CO2 is larger than CH4. CO2 has a greater intermolecular force than CH4 as a result.


CO2 is an acidic gas that is non-toxic and non-combustible. It’s a one-carbon molecule that creates two double bonds with the oxygen atoms in its environment.

Because of the electronegativity mismatch between carbon and oxygen, it contains two polar bonds. It does, however, have linear geometry and a 180o bond angle. As a result, the polarities of both bonds balance out, and CO2 becomes a non-polar molecule.

London forces are the only intermolecular forces that exist between non-polar molecules. As a result, London forces work as an interaction force between CO2 molecules.

Because a temporary distortion in the electron cloud of one non-polar molecule produces a dipole in it for a short time, London forces are also known as induced dipole-induced dipole interaction. This immediate dipole also creates a dipole in the non-polar molecule around it.

Read more: Is a Chemical Change Caused by Boiling Water?

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