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Definition of Nonelectrolyte

A nonelectrolyte is a type of substance that does not ionize in either a molten state or in solution. These substances do not have a distinct ionized state. Due to their poor dissociation property, they are often bad conductors of electricity. Moreover, some of these nonelectrolytes often have an insulating effect when it comes to the conduction of electric current. Essentially a nonelectrolyte is a substance that does not break into ions when stirred into a solution. The substances with the opposite characteristics of nonelectrolytes are the electrolytes. An electrolyte readily dissociates when placed in an aqueous solution. These substances are, therefore, also good conductors of electricity. In this article, we will focus on nonelectrolyte chemistry.

Examples of Nonelectrolytes 

Nonelectrolytes are chemical compounds that do not ionize even when we dissolve them in a solution. Therefore, the solutions which contain a nonelectrolyte solute usually do not conduct electricity sufficiently. Some nonelectrolytes do not conduct any current. These compounds are generally brought together by covalent bonds rather than having ionic interactions.

Let us discuss two examples of nonelectrolytes. A very common nonelectrolyte would be sugar. If we talk specifically, glucose, which is a variety of sugar, is a good example of a nonelectrolyte. Glucose has a chemical formula of C6H12O6. Glucose readily dissolves in water but does not split into ions on dissolution. Therefore, we say that glucose is an example of a nonelectrolyte. This phenomenon is also the reason why solutions containing sugar do not conduct electricity. Salt, on the other hand, is a brilliant electrolyte. 

Another common example of a nonelectrolyte is an organic compound known as ethanol or ethyl alcohol. As with most organic compounds, ethanol is covalent and therefore does not ionize.

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Distinguishing Electrolytes From Nonelectrolytes 

In the study of electrochemistry and when learning about the properties of nonelectrolyte chemistry, it is important that we can tell an electrolyte and a nonelectrolyte apart. The two sets of substances have different natures, they undergo different reactions, and they have different formations altogether. In this segment, we will separate a nonelectrolyte from an electrolyte with the help of two points. 

  • The compounds which behave as electrolytes are always ionic. Their formation involves the coming together of ions. Electrolytes are held together by ionic bonds. When we dissolve such a substance in an aqueous solution or any polar solvent, we see the ionic bonds dissociating. On dissociation, we obtain cation and anion pairs, which then help to carry electricity. All ionic salts act as very strong electrolytes.

  • In the case of nonelectrolytes, the formation of the compounds generally involves covalent bond formation. Covalent bonds are nonpolar, which means they do not have a charge separation. Due to the nonpolar property of these compounds, nonelectrolytes do not dissociate into a positive and negative part when stirred into a solvent. Due to this reason, nonelectrolytes do not conduct electricity. 

Solved Examples 

Q1. What Do You Call a Substance Which Does Not Dissociate in an Aqueous Solution or a Polar Solvent and Dissolves to Form a Non-conducting Solution?

  1. electrolyte 

  2. solute

  3. nonelectrolyte 

  4. conductor

Answer: A substance that does not dissociate in an aqueous solution or a polar solvent and dissolves to form a non-conducting solution is a nonelectrolyte.

Q2. What is a Nonvolatile Nonelectrolyte?

Answer: A nonvolatile nonelectrolyte is a molecule containing covalent bonds which does not:

  • dissociate into a positive and negative half, and

  • does not evaporate or sublime

when we add it to a solvent. These compounds or molecules have a special feature that helps in the quantitative analysis of these substances. The special property of these substances is such that their colligative concentrations match the value of their molar concentration, and this makes calculations with experimental data a lot easier. 

Q3. Do We Call Sodium Chloride an Electrolyte or a Nonelectrolyte?

Answer: Sodium chloride is an innately ionic compound. The structure of the compound is such that it ionizes very easily in any polar solvent. The formation of sodium chloride itself takes place by two ions coming together, namely, the sodium cation and the chloride anion. When placed in a solvent such as water, the compound separates into Na+ and Cl- ions. Therefore, sodium chloride is not a nonelectrolyte but rather a very strong electrolyte. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. Should We Consider Water to be a Nonelectrolyte?

Answer: If we understand a nonelectrolyte by its definition, we will see that it is a substance that does not undergo dissociation when dissolved into a solvent. The solvent we are talking about is usually water. Therefore when we ask whether water is a nonelectrolyte or not, we are essentially asking if water dissolves into itself and leads to dissociation. If we see experimentally, pure water does not conduct any electricity. If water conducts current, it is due to the electrolytic components present in it. Therefore, water is mainly the solvent and cannot be either an electrolyte or a nonelectrolyte. However, water does weakly dissociate into H+ and OH- ions spontaneously. 

Q2. Is Ammonia an Electrolyte or a Nonelectrolyte?

Answer: Ammonia is a chemical compound that goes by the formula NH3. Most scientific experiments generally classify ammonia as an electrolyte. This observation is due to the dissociative nature of ammonia under certain conditions when placed in a solvent. For example, when ammonia dissolves into water, it breaks up into ions. This process takes place because the ammonia molecules react with the water molecules and form a pair of dissociated ions. These ions are namely the ammonium ion whose formula is NH4+ and the hydroxide ion with the formula OH-. Although we see dissociation taking place, the rate of formation of these ions is very low, and therefore ammonia is a very weak electrolyte.