What is the difference between polar and nonpolar methanol?

The simplest kind of alcohol is methanol, which has a methyl group connected to the hydroxyl group (-OH). Methanol is colourless and has an odour that is comparable to ethanol. It is combustible and light in nature. The main distinction between ethanol and methanol is that methanol is harmful in nature. Many scientific students could be undecided about whether methanol is polar or nonpolar. In this post, I will respond to this question as well as discuss related themes.

So, does methanol have polar or nonpolar properties? Methanol is polar in nature because the OH group dominates and is more electronegative than carbon and hydrogen atoms, making it polar. As a result, oxygen is partially negatively charged, while carbon and hydrogen are positively charged.

Methanol is the most basic alcohol, containing only one carbon atom, three hydrogen bonds, and one hydroxyl group. Methyl alcohol is another name for this substance. Its IUPAC name is methanol.

CH3OH has one carbon atom, one oxygen atom, and four hydrogen atoms in its chemical formula. Methanol has a molecular mass of 32.04 g per mol.

It is calculated as follows:

1* (molecular mass of C) + 4* (molecular mass of H) + molecular mass of O

12 + 14 + 16 = 32 g

Methanol is a colourless liquid that smells like ethanol and has no texture. Methanol has a low toxicity to humans, but it can be harmful if eaten in large quantities.

The denatured alcohol is caused by the addition of methanol to ethanol, and it’s also difficult to tell the difference between ethanol and methanol due to their identical odour and look.

Methanol possesses covalent connections within its molecule. One of the hydroxyl group’s four bonds connects it to carbon.

The methanol (CH3OH) molecule has an asymmetrical shape. A molecule’s symmetry plays a vital role in defining its polarity.

Electronegativity and dipole moment, in addition to geometrical symmetry, are essential variables in determining a molecule’s polarity.

What are the differences between polar and nonpolar molecules?

The exchange of electrons between atoms occurs when two or more atoms create a chemical bond to form a molecule.

The charge distribution among the atoms in a chemical bond is equal in some compounds. Some molecules, on the other hand, have an uneven charge distribution among their atoms.

Chemical bonds hold the molecules of chemical compounds together, and chemical bonds might be ionic, covalent, metallic, or hydrogen. The atoms were kept together by these bonds. Ionic and covalent connections are the most prevalent and strongest of these.

The ionic connection is established when two atoms with opposite charges come together. The two atoms with opposite charges attract one other and stabilise each other. NaCl, KCl, and other ionic compounds are examples.

When atoms share electrons to complete their octet, a covalent connection is established between them. H2, CO2, and other covalently linked molecules are examples.

Polar or nonpolar covalent bonding are possible. If the charge distribution on both atoms is asymmetrical, two atoms with a covalent connection produce polar molecules. There is a difference in electronegativity between the two atoms in such compounds.

H2O, OF2, and other polar compounds are examples. You can look into the explanation for CBr4’s polarity.

The more electronegative atom pulls the shared electron pair closer to itself, gaining a partial negative charge, while the other atom receives a partial positive charge.

Nonpolar molecules, on the other hand, have the same charge distribution on both atoms making a covalent connection. It signifies that both atoms have an equal part of the electron pair.

CO2, O2, and other nonpolar molecules are examples. Examine the reason behind XeF2’s non-polarity.

What makes methanol polar?

The hydroxyl group (-OH) is connected to a carbon that dominates the molecule in Methanol, and oxygen is more electronegative than hydrogen and carbon, resulting in partial negative charge for oxygen and partial positive charge for carbon and hydrogen.

The O-H and C-O bonds become polar as a result, and both bonds have a dipole moment value.

As a result, the dipole moment of the methanol molecule has a net value.

The polarity of a molecule is proportional to the difference in electronegativity of the atoms that make it up. A molecule’s polarity is proportional to the difference in electronegativity between its atoms.

In the same way, a molecule’s polarity is proportional to its dipole moment.

Methanol has an asymmetric shape, which is a key aspect in defining a molecule’s polarity.

These elements are briefly addressed below.

A compound’s polarity is affected by a variety of factors.

Geometrical shape: Nonpolar molecules exhibit symmetrical geometrical shapes because any polar bonds within the molecule are cancelled by each other, making the entire molecule nonpolar.

In contrast, molecules with an asymmetric form and polar connections inside them have a net dipole moment, making the molecule polar.

Electronegativity: The vigour with which an atom may draw bonding electrons towards it is measured by its electronegativity.

The more electronegative atom in a two-atom molecule draws the bonding electrons slightly towards itself and obtains partial negative charge, whereas the other atom gains partial positive charge.

Dipole moment: The dipole moment is a measurement of a molecule’s polarity. The polarity of a molecule is also exactly proportional to its dipole moment. The polarity of a molecule is proportional to its dipole moment value.

It is the product of the charge and the distance between the atoms in mathematics.

It can be calculated using the following formula.

D = the molecule’s dipole moment

Q stands for charge.

R denotes the distance between atoms (bond length)

Q*R = D

1.69 D is the predicted dipole moment of the methanol (CH3OH) molecule.

Methanol’s Geometrical Structure

Methanol contains two geometrical centres in its molecule (carbon and oxygen).

The centre atom, which has no lone pair, forms four sigma bonds with three hydrogen atoms and one with a hydroxyl group.

If carbon is regarded the core atom, the methanol molecule has a tetrahedral form.

Oxygen generates a bent shape by forming two sigma bonds with two lone pairs on it. The angle of the bond is approximately 104.5 degrees.

The chemical structure of the methanol (CH3OH) molecule is shown below.

Methanol’s Characteristics

Methanol is a colourless liquid that is extremely harmful.

It’s a light, basic alcohol that’s also flammable.

Methanol has a boiling point of 64.96 °C (148.93 °F) and a melting temperature of 97.6 °C (143.7 °F).

It is created by bacteria’s normal anaerobic metabolism.

It has a fragrance that is comparable to ethanol.

Methanol’s Applications

Methanol is a non-alcoholic alcohol used to make fuel, antifreeze, and solvent.

It’s utilised in the production of formaldehyde and acetic acid.

In sewage treatment plants, it’s used.

The combination of methanol and water is widely used in high-performance engines to boost power.

It is also used extensively in the production of aromatic chemicals and hydrocarbons.

It’s employed in the production of methylamines and methyl esters.


The uneven charge distribution of the atoms and the asymmetric molecular structure of methanol make it polar.

Because oxygen is more electronegative than hydrogen and carbon, the former gains a partial negative charge while the latter gains a partial positive charge.

As a result, the polarity of the C-O and O-H bonds is preserved. As a result, the molecule has a net dipole moment.

I’m hoping you all understand why methanol is a polar molecule. You can post your queries in the comments section if you have any. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Read more: Diagram, Steps To Draw The Neon Bohr Model

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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