Difference Between Polar and Nonpolar

Polarity and Non-polarity of molecules depend upon the electronegativity. The theory of electronegativity lies in entire inorganic chemistry. The more electronegative an atom, the more it seeks electrons. If one atom is more electronegative than others, it can form an ionic bond or a polar covalent bond. The formation of an ionic bond happens when a major electronegative atom takes an electron completely from another molecule. If the atom simply pulls the electrons towards itself and it forms a polar covalent bond. Thus, the disparate sharing of electrons results in the bond possessing a partial positive and negative end. 

Identification of Polar and Nonpolar Bonds:

As mentioned earlier, there could be the possibilities of two types of bonds, either it could be completely polar or nonpolar. When there is no disparity between the electronegativities of molecules, the bond will be nonpolar covalent bonds. On the other hand, when the more electronegative atom pulls an electron from the other atom, then polar ionic bonds will be formed.  

But what occurs in between these two extremities?

Bond identification is represented in a tabular format below in terms of electronegativity:

Type of bond

Difference in Electronegativity

Pure Covalent

< 0.4

Polar Covalent

Between 0.4 and 1.8


> 1.8

The difference in Electronegativity is the major reason due to the difference between polar and nonpolar bonds. 

Polar Vs. Non-polar:

A compound may possess the polar covalent bonds, but it may not be a polar compound. The reason behind it, due to the presence of net dipole in a polar compound, they are asymmetrically arrayed. Take an example of water; it is a polar compound. They possess both a partial positive charge and which cannot cancel out. 

Whereas, non-polar compounds can either share entire electrons or possess symmetrical polar bonds that can cancel out some sort of net dipole. Take an example of Boron Trifluoride (BF3), where the polar bonds are arrayed in a single plane, and they end up canceling out each other. A tabular format is given below while differentiating both compounds:



Polar compounds are asymmetrically arrayed.

They possess symmetrical polar bonds.

The molecule would be polar if it possessed zero dipole moment. Example: water

Non polar molecules have significant dipole moment value. Example: CCl4

Polar molecules possess equal distribution of electron density.

Unequal distribution of electron density leads to a nonpolar molecule.

Difference between Polar and Nonpolar Compounds:

To understand the difference between polar and nonpolar compounds, it is necessary to concentrate upon the Lewis structure. The non-polar compounds will be symmetric, which means the presence of the identical atoms around the central atom, which bonds to the element without any unshared pairs of electrons. While taking into consideration the CCl4 molecule, it is completely non-polar due to its tetrahedral structure.

As compared to the non-polar compounds, polar compounds are asymmetric in nature as they contain lone pairs of electrons on a central atom, and the attached atoms possess different electronegativities. For example, Hydrogen Fluoride (HF) is a diatomic molecule, which one side is slightly positive, and another side is slightly negative. This disparity in electronegativity makes it a polar compound. The bond is a polar covalent bond. 

The high electronegativity of the Fluorine atom drags all the positive charges from the H atom. This is why a partial positive charge has been generated on the H atom and partial negative charge on F atom. The entire molecule is considered a dipole molecule due to the unequal distribution of electron density. 

Another precious thing that should be considered while determining polar and nonpolar molecules is molecular geometry. The below-mentioned figure demonstrates a comparison between water and Carbon-monoxide. Due to the linear structure of the CO2 molecule, the higher electronegative oxygen atoms drag the charges from the carbon atom and thus two isolated dipoles pointing outward from the carbon atom to oxygen atom. So that the dipoles cancel out each other, and the molecular polarity of CO2 becomes zero. CO2 is a nonpolar molecule.

Whereas water possesses a bent structure and due to the higher electronegativity of oxygen, it pulls out the charges and so that the direct will be H to O. Due to this structure, the dipoles cannot cancel out each other and the compound is polar. 

This represents the molecular geometry that affects the polarity. CO2 possesses zero dipole moment due to the linear structure and it becomes a nonpolar molecule. In contrast, water is a polar compound due to its bent structure and dipole moment cannot gets zero   

Difference between polar and non-polar solvents:

The prime difference between polar and nonpolar solvents is, the polar solvent gets dissolved in a polar compound, whereas the non-polar solvent gets dissolved in non-polar compounds. Well, moreover, the polar solvents possess molecules with polar bonds, and nonpolar solvents possess molecules with similar electronegativity values. 

What are Polar Solvents?

Generally, polar molecules and polar solvents possess large dipole moment values. Polar solvents are liquids that can dissolve various polar compounds. This is because the positively charged molecule of a compound gets easily attracted by the negatively charged molecule of a solvent, which leads to the liquefaction of the polar compounds to the polar solvents. It is previously illustrated that the polarity of the solvent arises because of disparity in the electronegativity of molecules.  

What are non-polar solvents?

The non-polar solvents are liquids that do not have any dipole moment. These non-polar solvents do not possess any partial positive or negative charges. That is why non-polar solvents are unable to dissolve polar compounds as there is the absence of opposite charges to attract the polar ones.  

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. CCl4 is a polar or nonpolar molecule?

CCl4 is a nonpolar molecule as the partial positive and negative charges cancel out each other.

2. What is the prime factor to distinguish between polar and nonpolar bonds?

Electronegativity is the key factor that differentiates between polar and nonpolar bonds.

3. Does polar compound dissolve in non-polar solvent?

No, a polar compound dissolves only in a polar solvent.

4. What type of bonds are present in water molecules?

The bonding is polar covalent bonding present in water molecules.

5. Why is CO2 a nonpolar compound?

Dipole moment is zero in CO2 molecules and that is why it becomes a non-polar compound.