What is the difference between polar and nonpolar ethanol (C2H5OH)?

Ethanol (C2H5OH) is a chemical substance with the formula C2H5OH. It is a well-known chemical that is most commonly consumed as alcohol. It is a white liquid with a distinct odour in its pure state. Many of you may have doubts about whether or not ethanol is polar. We’ll talk about it in this article, as well as the qualities and applications it has.

Is Ethanol Nonpolar or Polar? Because of the hydroxyl group (-OH) connected to the carbon end, ethanol is polar in nature. The hydroxyl group becomes polar due to the difference in electronegativity between oxygen and hydrogen. As a result, the ethanol molecule acquires a non-zero dipole moment and becomes a polar molecule.

Ethanol is a well-known chemical that is mostly consumed in the form of alcohol by humans all over the world.

It has a colourless appearance and a distinct odour in its pure condition. It is combustible and volatile by nature.

The fermentation of sweet fruits by yeast results in the production of this chemical.

When it comes to the chemical makeup of ethanol, it is made up of two carbon atoms, six hydrogen atoms, and one oxygen atom.

One end of the carbon chain has a hydroxyl group linked to it. A hydroxyl group is connected to the alcohol molecules.

R-OH is the general formula for alcohol. where R denotes the hydrocarbon series and -Oh denotes the hydroxyl group.

Ethanol has a molecular mass of about 46.069 gmol1. The formula is as follows:

2 * 12 (mol mass of carbon) + 6 * 1 (mol mass of hydrogen) + 1 * 16 (mol mass of oxygen) = 46.069 gmol1.

Because of the difference in electronegativity between oxygen and hydrogen atoms, the Hydroxyl group connected is polar.

Oxygen has an electronegativity of 3.44, while hydrogen has an electronegativity of 2.2. The bonded pair electron is attracted to the side of the Oxygen atom because it is more electronegative, and the atom gains a partial negative charge.

As a result, the hydrogen atom acquires a relatively negative charge.

What Is the Difference Between Polar and Nonpolar Molecules?

Interatomic forces such as hydrogen bonds, metallic bonds, covalent bonds, and ionic bonds are used to build molecules.

Among the above bonds, ionic and covalent bonds are the most powerful.

Polar Molecules: Polar molecules have two poles created across them (positive and negative). These compounds have an uneven charge distribution across their atoms.

Because the degree of an atom’s attraction to the bound electron pair is determined by its electronegativity, the atoms forming a polar covalent bond always differ in their electronegativity.

As a result, the atom with the higher electronegative charge receives a partial negative charge, whereas the atom with the lower electronegative charge gains a partial positive charge.

SCl2, OF2, and other polar compounds are some examples. You can look into the explanation for SCl2’s polarity.

Nonpolar Molecules: These are molecules that do not have any produced poles. As a result, the dipole moment of such molecules is zero.

Nonpolar bonds are formed when two atoms with the same electronegativity have an equal influence on the bonded charge.

Hexane, Br2, and other similar compounds are examples. You can look into the reason behind Br2’s non-polarity.

Ethanol is a polar molecule for a reason.

Ethanol is a form of alcohol with a carbon chain consisting of two carbon atoms and one hydroxyl group.

The polarity of the whole molecule is generated by the hydroxyl group attached to the carbon end.

This is due to the electronegativity mismatch between oxygen and hydrogen atoms.

The electronegativity of oxygen (3.44) differs from that of hydrogen (2.2) by about 1.24 units.

Because of this discrepancy, the polarity of the ethanol molecule is maintained throughout.

When it comes to ethanol’s geometrical shape, the carbon has a tetrahedral shape. While the oxygen takes on a curved shape.

Aspects that influence a molecule’s polarity

Some of the factors listed below are required to determine if a molecule is polar or not.

The term electronegativity refers to an atom’s ability to draw bound electron pairs towards it.

There is polarity across a bond if the electronegativity of two atoms composing a molecule differs.

It denotes that the charge distribution across the bond is non-uniform, i.e. uneven.

A molecule’s polarity is proportional to the difference in electronegativity between its atoms.

Dipole Moment: The value of a molecule’s dipole moment is used to determine its polarity. A molecule’s polarity is proportional to the value of its dipole.

The product of the charge on atoms and the distance between them determines a molecule’s dipole moment.

The letter D stands for it. Debye is the SI unit for it.

Geometrical Structure: A molecule’s geometrical structure is a physical property that can be used to determine whether or not a molecule is polar.

Asymmetrically structured molecules are often reported to be polar in nature because their dipoles do not cancel one other, resulting in a non zero dipole moment.

The symmetrically formed molecules, on the other hand, are non-polar in nature.

The molecular structure of ethanol is depicted below.

Ethanol’s Characteristics

At ordinary temperatures and pressures, ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, is a colourless liquid.

It is flammable and highly volatile.

Its melting point is around -114.5° C (173.45° F), while its boiling point is 78.24 °C (172.83 °F).

Ethanol has a molecular mass of 46.069 gmol1.

Ethanol has a density of 789 g/l, which is approximately 20% less than water.

It’s a good solvent because it’s a polar chemical.

It is totally water soluble.

Because there are no free ions in a covalent molecule, it does not transmit electricity.

Ethanol’s Applications

Ethanol is a type of alcohol that is widely drunk by humans all over the world.

It is commonly used as a disinfectant in sanitizers to kill viruses and bacteria.

It is also added to gasoline to prevent the knocking effect in automotive engines.

It has a lot of applications in the cosmetics sector. It’s a frequent ingredient in fragrances, lotions, and other beauty products.

Because of its effective solvent characteristic, it is also used as a preservative in paints.

It’s also employed in the production of chemicals for cleaning products.


Ethanol is a form of alcohol with two carbon atom chains joined at one end by a hydroxyl group.

The hydroxyl (-OH) group is polar due to the difference in electronegativity between oxygen and hydrogen.

As a result, the entire molecule is polar, resulting in a dipole moment that is not zero.

Ethanol is a polar chemical because of these factors.

Guys, if you have any queries on ethanol’s polarity, please post them in the comments area. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Read more: Is MgO an ionic or a covalent compound?

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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