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In chemistry, polarity is a separation of electric charge leading to a molecule or its chemical groups having an electric dipole moment, with a negatively charged end and a positively charged end.

Polar molecules must contain polar bonds due to a difference in electronegativity between the bonded atoms. A polar molecule with two or more polar bonds must have a geometry which is asymmetric in at least one direction, so that the bond dipoles do not cancel each other.

Polar molecules interact through dipole–dipole intermolecular forces and hydrogen bonds. Polarity underlies a number of physical properties including surface tension, solubility, and melting and boiling points.

Predicting molecule polarity

Formula Description Example Name Dipole moment
Polar AB Linear molecules CO Carbon monoxide 0.112
HAx Molecules with a single H HF point group is a useful way to predict polarity of a molecule. In general, a molecule will not possess dipole moment if the individual bond dipole moments of the molecule cancel each other out. This is because dipole moments are euclidean vector quantities with magnitude and direction, and a two equal vectors who oppose each other will cancel out.

Any molecule with a centre of inversion ("i") or a horizontal mirror plane ("σh") will not possess dipole moments. Likewise, a molecule with more than one Cn axis of rotation will not possess a dipole moment because dipole moments cannot lie in more than one dimension. As a consequence of that constraint, all molecules with dihedral symmetry (Dn) will not have a dipole moment because, by definition, D point groups have two or multiple Cn axes.

Since C1, Cs,C∞h Cn and Cnv point groups do not have a centre of inversion, horizontal mirror planes or multiple Cn axis, molecules in one of those point groups will have dipole moment.

Electrical deflection of water

Contrary to popular misconception, the electrical deflection of a stream of water from a charged object is not based on polarity. The deflection occurs because of electrically charged droplets in the stream, which the charged object induces. A stream of water can also be deflected in a uniform electrical field, which cannot exert force on polar molecules. Additionally, after a stream of water is grounded, it can no longer be deflected. Weak deflection is even possible for nonpolar liquids.[5]

See also