Intermolecular force

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Intermolecular forces are forces of attraction or repulsion which act between neighboring particles (atoms, molecules or ions). They are weak compared to the intramolecular forces, the forces which keep a molecule together. For example, the covalent bond present within HCl molecules is much stronger than the forces present between the neighbouring molecules, which exist when the molecules are sufficiently close to each other.

There are four types of attractive intermolecular forces:

  • Dipole–dipole forces
  • Ion–dipole forces
  • Dipole-induced dipole forces or Debye forces
  • Instantaneous dipole-induced dipole forces or London dispersion forces.


London dispersion force


Otherwise known as quantum -induced instantaneous polarization or instantaneous dipole-induced dipole force, the London dispersion force is caused by correlated movements of the electrons in interacting molecules. Electrons that belong to different molecules start "fleeing" and avoiding each other at the short intermolecular distances, which is frequently described as formation of "instantaneous dipoles" that attract each other.

Intramolecular multiple force theory (IMMFT) is a concept which deals with the forces which are developed in different domains of similar supramolecules. The supramolecules such as dendrimer and others have different discrete zones with their own environment and center of forces and these forces when coordinated to each other in similar molecules, a unique molecular mechanics and dynamics are developed known as the intramolecular multiple force theory.Template:Cn

Debye (induced dipole) force

The induced dipole forces appear from the induction (also known as polarization), which is the attractive interaction between a permanent multipole on one molecule with an induced (by the former di/multi-pole) multipole on another.<ref name=Blustin-1978> Blustin PH, 1978. A Floating Gaussian Orbital calculation on argon hydrochloride (Ar • HCl). Theoret. Chim. Acta 47, 249–257.</ref><ref name=Nannoolal-2006> Nannoolal Y, 2006. Development and critical evaluation of group contribution methods for the estimation of critical properties, liquid vapour pressure and liquid viscosity of organic compounds. University of Kwazulu-Natal PhD Thesis. </ref><ref name=Roberts-Orr-1938> Roberts JK and Orr WJC, 1938. Induced dipoles and the heat of adsorption of argon on ionic crystals. Trans. Faraday Soc. 34, 1346–1349. </ref><ref name=Sapse-et-al-1979> Sapse AM, Rayez-Meaume MT, Rayez JC and Massa LJ, 1979. Ion-induced dipole H-n clusters. Nature 278, 332–333. </ref> This interaction is called Debye force after Peter J.W. Debye.

The example of an induction-interaction between permanent dipole and induced dipole is the interaction between HCl and Ar. In this system, Ar experiences a dipole as its electrons are attracted (to the H side of HCl) or repelled (from the Cl side) by HCl.<ref name=Blustin-1978/><ref name=Roberts-Orr-1938/> This kind of interaction can be expected between any polar molecule and non-polar/symmetrical molecule. The induction-interaction force is far weaker than dipole-dipole interaction, but stronger than the London dispersion force.

Dipole–dipole interactions Template:Anchor

Dipole–dipole interactions are electrostatic interactions of permanent dipoles in molecules. These interactions tend to align the molecules to increase the attraction (reducing potential energy). An example of a dipole–dipole interaction can be seen in hydrogen chloride (HCl): the positive end of a polar molecule will attract the negative end of the other molecule and influence their arrangement. Polar molecules have a net attraction between them. For example HCl and chloroform (CHCl3)


Keesom interactions (named after Willem Hendrik Keesom) are attractive interactions of dipoles that are Boltzmann-averaged over different rotational orientations of the dipoles. The energy of a Keesom interaction depends on the inverse sixth power of the distance, unlike the interaction energy of two spatially fixed dipoles, which depends on the inverse third power of the distance.

Often molecules contain dipolar groups but have no overall dipole moment. This occurs if there is symmetry within the molecule that causes the dipoles to cancel each other out. This occurs in molecules such as tetrachloromethane. Note that the dipole–dipole interaction between two atoms is usually zero, because atoms rarely carry a permanent dipole. See atomic dipoles.

Ion-dipole and ion-induced dipole forces

Ion-dipole and ion-induced-dipole forces operate more like dipole-dipole and induced-dipole interactions, but involve ions instead of only polar and non-polar molecules being involved. Ion-dipole and ion-induced dipole forces are stronger than dipole interactions because the charge of any ion is much greater than the charge of a dipole moment. Ion-dipole bonding is stronger than hydrogen bonding.Template:Cn

An ion-dipole force consists of an ion and a polar molecule interacting. They align so that the positive and negative forces are next to one another, allowing for maximum attraction.

An ion-induced dipole force consists of an ion and a non-polar molecule interacting. Like a dipole-induced dipole force, the charge of the ion causes a distortion of the electron cloud on the non-polar molecule. <ref name=Michael-Blaber-1996> Dr. Michael Blaber, 1996. Intermolecular Forces. </ref>

Hydrogen bonding


A hydrogen bond is the attraction between the lone pair of an electronegative atom and a hydrogen atom that is bonded to either nitrogen, oxygen, or fluorine.<ref name=GoldBook-H02899>Template:GoldBookRef</ref> The hydrogen bond is often described as a strong electrostatic dipole–dipole interaction. However, it also has some features of covalent bonding: it is directional, stronger than a van der Waals interaction, produces interatomic distances shorter than sum of van der Waals radii, and usually involves a limited number of interaction partners, which can be interpreted as a kind of valence.


Intermolecular hydrogen bonding is responsible for the high boiling point of water (100 °C) compared to the other group 16 hydrides that have no hydrogen bonds. Intramolecular hydrogen bonding is partly responsible for the secondary, tertiary, and quaternary structures of proteins and nucleic acids. It also plays an important role in the structure of polymers, both synthetic and natural.Template:Cn

Relative strength of forces

Bond type Dissociation energy (kcal/mol),<ref name=Volland-Intermolecular>Template:Cite web</ref><ref name=Seyhan-Organic-Chemistry>Organic Chemistry: Structure and Reactivity by Seyhan Ege, pp.30–33, 67</ref>
Covalent 400
Hydrogen bonds 12–16
Dipole–dipole 0.5–2
London (van der Waals) Forces <1

Note: this comparison is only approximate – the actual relative strengths will vary depending on the molecules involved.

Quantum mechanical theories


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See also

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External links

Software for calculation of intermolecular forces

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