Dipole moment

vector physical quantity

Dipole moment can be defined as the product of magnitude of charges and the distance of separation between the charges.


  • Net molecular polarity is measured by a quantity called the dipole moment and can be thought of in the following way: assume that there is a center of mass of all positive charges (nuclei) in a molecule and a center of mass of all negative charges (electrons). If these two centers don’t coincide, then the molecule has a net polarity. The dipole moment, μ (Greek mu), is defined as the magnitude of the charge Q at either end of the molecular dipole times the distance r between the charges, μ = Q × r.
    Dipole moments are expressed in debyes(D), where 1 D = 3.336 ×10-30 coulomb meter (C · m) in SI units. For example, the unit charge on an electron is 1.60 ×10-19 C. Thus, if one positive charge and one negative charge are separated by 100 pm (a bit less than the length of a typical covalent bond), the dipole moment is 1.60 ×10-29 C · m, or 4.80 D.…
    In contrast with water, methanol, and ammonia, molecules such as carbon dioxide, methane, ethane, and benzene have zero dipole moments. Because of the symmetrical structures of these molecules, the individual bond polarities and lone-pair contributions exactly cancel.
    • John McMurry, Organic Chemistry 8th ed. (2012), Ch. 2 : Polar Covalent Bonds; Acids and Bases

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