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Which intermolecular forces are present in water?

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Content:

The H2O water molecule is polar with intermolecular dipole-dipole hydrogen bonds. While the water molecules attract and form bonds, water exhibits properties such as high surface tension and high heat of vaporization. Intermolecular forces are much weaker than the intramolecular forces that hold the molecules together, but they are still strong enough to affect the properties of a substance. In the case of water, they cause the liquid to behave in a unique way and give it useful properties.

TL; DR (too long; not read)

Water has strong intermolecular hydrogen bond dipole-dipole forces that give water high surface tension and heat of vaporization, making it a strong solvent.

Polar molecules

While molecules have an overall neutral charge, the shape of the molecule can be such that one end is more negative and the other end is more positive. In this case, the negatively charged ends attract the positively charged ends of other molecules, creating weak bonds. A polar molecule is called a dipole because it has two plus and minus poles. The bonds that polar molecules form are called dipole-dipole bonds.

The water molecule has such charge differences. The oxygen atom in water has six electrons in its outer electron shell, which has space for eight electrons. The two hydrogen atoms in water form covalent bonds with the oxygen atom and share their two electrons with the oxygen atom. As a result, of the eight available binding electrons in the molecule, two are shared with each of the two hydrogen atoms, leaving four free.

The two hydrogen atoms stay on one side of the molecule while the free electrons collect on the other side. The shared electrons stay between the hydrogen atoms and the oxygen atom, releasing the positively charged hydrogen proton of the nucleus. This means that the hydrogen side of the water molecule has a positive charge while the other side, where the free electrons are located, has a negative charge. As a result, the water molecule is polar and a dipole.

Hydrogen bonds

The strongest intermolecular force in water is a special dipole bond called a hydrogen bond. Many molecules are polar and can form bipole-bipole bonds without forming hydrogen bonds or even having hydrogen in their molecule. Water is polar and the dipole bond it forms is a hydrogen bond based on the two hydrogen atoms in the molecule.

Hydrogen bonds are particularly strong because the hydrogen atom in molecules like water is a small, bare proton with no inner electron shell. This allows it to approach the negative charge on the negative side of a polar molecule and form a particularly strong bond. In water, a molecule can form up to four hydrogen bonds, with one molecule for each hydrogen atom and two hydrogen atoms on the negative oxygen side. These bonds are strong in water, but they are constantly changing, breaking and re-forming in order to give the water its special properties.

Ion dipole bonds

When ionic compounds are added to water, the charged ions can form bonds with the polar water molecules. For example, NaCl or table salt is an ionic compound because the sodium atom has given the chlorine atom its only electron in the outer shell, thereby forming sodium and chlorine ions. When dissolved in water, the molecules dissociate into positively charged sodium ions and negatively charged chlorine ions. The sodium ions are attracted to the negative poles of the water molecules and form ion-dipole bonds there, while the chlorine ions form bonds with the hydrogen atoms. The formation of ion-dipole bonds is one reason why ionic compounds dissolve easily in water.

The effects of intermolecular forces on material properties

Intermolecular forces and the bonds they create can affect the behavior of a material. In the case of water, the relatively strong hydrogen bonds hold the water together. Two of the resulting properties are high surface tension and high heat of vaporization.

Surface tension is high because water molecules form bonds along the surface of the water that form a kind of elastic film on the surface that allows the surface to carry some weight and pull water droplets into round shapes.

The heat of vaporization is high because once the water reaches boiling point, the water molecules are still bound and remain a liquid until enough energy is added to break the bonds. Bonds based on intermolecular forces aren't as strong as chemical bonds, but they are still important in explaining the behavior of some materials.