Is BrF3 polar or nonpolar? - Polarity of BrF3

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is brf3 polar or nonpolar

Bromine trifluoride is a yellowish interhalogen compound represented by the chemical formula BrF3. At room temperature, it is a fuming liquid with a pungent odor. BrF3 is a strong oxidizing agent and reacts violently with water, combustible materials, and acids. However, prolonged inhalation of BrF3 fumes is toxic to body cells.

Considering the many important applications of this chemical compound, we need to know its physiochemical properties. One such property is the chemical nature of BrF3, i.e., its polarity.

So, if you are curious to know whether bromine trifluoride (BrF3) is polar or nonpolar, then dive into this article and find out for yourself.

Is BrF3 polar or nonpolar?

Bromine trifluoride (BrF3)  is a highly polar molecule. The central bromine (Br) atom in BrF3 is surrounded by three fluorine (F) atoms forming a T-shaped molecule.

A high electronegativity difference exists between the bonded Br and F atoms in each Br-F bond present in the BrF3 molecule. The asymmetrical T-shape of BrF3 further enhances the polarity effect.

The Br-F dipole moments do not get canceled, which leads to an overall non-uniform electron cloud distribution in the molecule. Hence BrF3 is polar (net µ =1.19 D).

Name of moleculeBromine trifluoride (BrF3)
Bond typePolar covalent
Molecular geometryT-shaped
Polar or Non-polar?Polar molecule
Dipole moment1.19 D
Bond angle86.2°

The molecule is said to be polar if there is an unequal distribution of charge present in it. If the charge distribution is uniform in different parts of the molecule, then it is a non-polar molecule.

what are polar and nonpolar molecule

Three main factors control the polarity of any molecule, namely:

  • The electronegativity difference between two or more bonded atoms.
  • Dipole moment.
  • Molecular geometry or shape.

How do these factors contribute to an unequal charge distribution, and how do these apply specifically to BrF3 in confirming that it is a highly polar molecule?

Let’s uncover that insightful information in the detailed discussion below.

Factors affecting the polarity of BrF3


It is defined as the ability of an atom to attract a shared pair of electrons from a covalent chemical bond.

Electronegativity decreases down the group in the Periodic Table and increases across a period. 

Greater the electronegativity difference between bonded atoms in a molecule, the higher the bond polarity.

Both fluorine and bromine belong to group VII-A of the Periodic Table. The electronic configuration of fluorine is 1s22s22p5, so it has a total of 7 valence electrons. Each F-atom is thus short of a single valence electron in order to achieve a complete octet electronic configuration.

On the other hand, the electronic configuration of bromine is 1s22s22p63s23p63d104s24p5, which also hints at the presence of 7 valence electrons available for bonding. The 3 F-atoms thus form a single covalent bond with the central Br-atom on each side of the BrF3 molecule.

Three valence electrons consumed in bonding out of the seven initially available leaves behind 4 valence electrons, i.e., 2 lone pairs on the central Br-atom in BrF3.

Atom  Electronic configurationValence electrons
Bromine (35Br)1s22s22p63s23p63d104s24p5          7
Fluorine (9F)1s2 2s2 2p5          7

According to the Pauling scale, an electronegativity difference of at least greater than 0.5 units between the bonded atoms makes a bond polar.

Fluorine is highly electronegative (E.N = 3.98) compared to bromine (E.N = 2.96). There is an electronegativity difference of 1.02 units between these two atoms.

electronegativity affecting the polarity of brf3


So, F atoms strongly attract the shared electron cloud from each Br-F bond in the BrF3 molecule. The bonded electrons are held significantly close to the fluorine atoms in each Br-F bond.

each bond in brf3 is polar

Each terminal F-atom thus gains a partial negative (Fδ-) charge, while the central Br-atom gains a partial positive (Brδ+) charge. In this way, oppositely charged poles develop in the BrF3 molecule. As a result, each Br-F bond is strongly polar in BrF3.

Dipole moment

Dipole moment, represented by a Greek symbol µ, is a vector quantity measuring the separation between opposite electrical charges.

It is calculated as the product of the magnitude of charge (Q) and charge separation (r) between two atoms. It is expressed in Debye (D) units.

dipole moment representation

The direction of a dipole moment is from the center of the positively charged pole to the negative center and is dependent directly on the electronegativity difference.

Due to a great electronegativity difference between two bonded atoms, the bond polarity will be higher, leading to a high dipole moment value.

Considering the electronegativity difference between Br and F atoms, the dipole moment of individual Br-F bond points from Brδ+ to Fδ-.

dipole moment in brf3

Molecular geometry

As we have seen already, BrF3 consists of three Br-F covalent bonds, and 2 lone pairs are present on the central Br-atom (as shown below).

what is brf3 lewis structure

According to the Valence Electron Pair Repulsion (VSEPR) theory of chemical bonding, BrFis an AX3E2-type molecule. Around the central bromine atom (A), there are three bond pairs (X) and two lone pairs of electrons (E).

The ideal electron geometry of BrFis trigonal bipyramidal, considering a total of 5 electron density regions around the central atom. However, the presence of two lone pairs on the central Br-atom leads to strong lone-pair lone-pair and lone-pair bond-pair electronic repulsions. This repulsive effect distorts the symmetry of the molecule.

The molecule thus adopts an ‘asymmetric T-shape’’ in which the bond angle is also reduced to 86.2 ° from an ideal F-Br-F bond angle of 90 °.

why brf3 is polar

The individual Br-F dipole moments do not get canceled in the asymmetric T-shape of bromine trifluoride (BrF3). The electron cloud stays non-uniformly distributed over the molecule as a whole. Thus BrF3 is polar (net µ = 1.19 D).

Difference between polar and nonpolar?

Polar moleculeNon-polar molecule
Atoms must have a difference in
Atoms may have the same or different electronegativity values
Unequal charge distribution overallEqual charge distribution overall
Net dipole moment greater than zeroNet dipole moment equals to zero
Examples include water (H2O), ethanol (CH3CH2OH), ammonia (NH3), sulfur dioxide (SO2), bromine trifluoride (BrF3), bromine pentafluoride (BrF5), etc.Examples include oxygen (O2), nitrogen (N2), methane (CH4), sulfur trioxide (SO3), etc.

Also check –


Why is BrF3 polar?

  • BrF3 has polar bonds because of an electronegativity difference between bonded F and Br atoms.
  • Due to the asymmetric T-shape of BrF3, the bond polarities are not canceled.

Thus, BrF3 is a highly polar molecule with a net dipole moment of 1.19 D.

Why is the shape of the BrF3  molecule different from its ideal AX5 geometry?

  • Two lone pairs occupy the equatorial positions on the BrF3.
  • The strong lone pair-lone pair and lone pair-bond pair repulsive effect distort the molecule’s shape.

Thus, BrF3 occupies an asymmetric T-shape as opposed to the ideal AX5 trigonal bipyramidal geometry.

Is there any formal charge on the BrF3 molecule?

Formal charge on an atom = [ valence electrons – non-bonding electrons- ½ (bonding electrons)]

For fluorine atoms

  • Valence electrons = 7
  • Bonding electrons = 2
  • Non-bonding electrons = 6

∴ Formal charge on F-atoms  = 7-6-2/2 = 7-6-1 = 7-7 = 0

For bromine atom

  • Valence electrons = 7
  • Bonding electrons = 6
  • Non-bonding electrons = 4

∴ Formal charge on the central bromine atom  = 7-4-6/2 = 7-4-3 = 7-7 = 0

Thus, no formal charge is present on the bromine trifluoride molecule overall.

Explain hybridization in BrF3?

An sp3d hybridization is present in the BrF3  molecule. The electronic configuration of bromine is 1s22s22p63s23p63d104s24p5 and the electron configuration for the fluorine atom is 1s2 2s2p5.

One electron from the 4p atomic orbital on Br gets excited and goes to the empty 4d atomic orbital during chemical bonding.

One 4s, three 4p, and one  4d atomic orbitals of bromine thus hybridize to form five sp3d hybrid orbitals. The hybrid orbitals are not equivalent.

Two sp3d hybrid orbitals containing a pair of electrons behave as non-bonding electrons on the central bromine atom.

In comparison, the other three hybrid orbitals containing a single electron each form Br-F sigma bonds by sp3d-p overlap with the atomic orbitals of F-atoms.

brf3 hybridization

How can we compare the polarity of BrF3 with that of BrF5?

Both bromine trifluoride (BrF3) and bromine pentafluoride (BrF5) are polar molecules. BrF3 possesses a T-shape, while the shape of BrF5 is trigonal bipyramidal.

But as both T-shape, as well as a trigonal bipyramidal shape, is asymmetric, therefore the dipole moments of individual Br-F bonds do not get canceled in either case. Thus both BrF3 and BrF5 are polar (net µ > 0).


  • Bromine trifluoride (BrF3) is a polar molecule.
  • It consists of polar Br-F bonds due to an electronegativity difference of 1.02 units between the bonded atoms.
  • Fluorine attracts the shared electron cloud from each Br-F bond.
  • The asymmetric T-shape of the molecule leads to a non-uniform charge distribution overall.
  • Dipole moments do not get canceled in the molecule. Thus, BrF3 is a polar molecule with a net dipole moment value of 1.19 D.
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