Is Ethane polar or nonpolar? - Polarity of C2H6

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Is ethane (C2H6) polar or nonpolar

Ethane is a saturated hydrocarbon compound with the chemical formula C2H6. It exists as a colorless, odorless gas at room temperature. C2H6 is an extremely flammable compound and is a potential asphyxiation (deprivation of oxygen to the body) hazard.

If you have a query regarding the polarity of the ethane (C2H6) molecule and want to know whether it is polar or non-polar, you are in the right place.

Let’s get started.

Is C2H6 polar or non-polar?

Ethane (C2H6) is a non-polar molecule. Each C-H bond in the C2H6 molecule is non-polar due to a slight electronegativity difference between the bonded atoms. The C-C bond is also non-polar due to no electronegativity difference between the bonded C atoms.

The electronegativity of the carbon (C) atom is only slightly more than the hydrogen (H) atom. There is almost equal sharing of the electron cloud in the C-H bond due to this slight electronegativity difference.

Thus, each C-H and C-C bond in the C2H6 molecule is non-polar and possesses no dipole moment value.

Also, due to the symmetrical tetrahedral geometry of C2H6, the net dipole moments (µ), if any, will be canceled. As a result, C2H6 is a non-polar molecule with a net dipole moment equal to 0.

Name of moleculeEthane (C2H6)
Bond typeCovalent
Molecular geometryTetrahedral
Polar or Non-polar?Overall non-polar molecule
Dipole momentZero
Bond angle109.5°

What is a polar and non-polar molecule?

A molecule with an equal charge distribution between different centers of bonded atoms is a non-polar molecule, such as a C2H6 molecule.

It is formed by the covalent bond between two same atoms leading to a symmetric electron density in the molecule overall.

In the case of symmetric molecules, If the dipole moments of individually polar bonds are canceled, the molecule will be non-polar.

Hence a non-polar molecule has an equal distribution of the electronic charge. Contrarily, if the electronic charge is not evenly distributed over the molecule, in that case, it will be a polar molecule.

Polar vs nonpolar molecule

The following three factors influence the polarity of any covalent molecule:

  • Electronegativity.
  • Dipole moment.
  • Molecular geometry or shape.

In the next section, we will discuss how these three factors lead to the non-polar nature of the C2H6 molecule.

Factors affecting the polarity of C2H6

Electronegativity

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 of elements while it increases across a period.

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

Hydrogen belongs to group 1-A (or 1) of the Periodic Table. The electronic configuration of hydrogen is 1s1, so it has 1 valence electron.

On the other hand, carbon belongs to group IV-A (or 14) of the Periodic Table. The electronic configuration of carbon is 1s2 2s2 2p2, so it has 4 valence electrons available for bonding.

The six H-atoms thus form six single covalent bonds with the two C-atoms on each side of the C2H6 molecule.

atom present in C2H6

AtomElectronic configurationValence electrons
Hydrogen (1H)

1s1

1
Carbon (6C)1s22s22p24

According to the Pauling scale, a bond is polar covalent if the molecule’s electronegativity difference in bonded atoms ranges from 0.5 to 1.6 units. An electronegativity difference of less than 0.5 indicates the non-polarity of a covalent bond.

Carbon (E.N = 2.55) is slightly more electronegative than hydrogen (E.N = 2.2). An electronegativity difference of only 0.35 units is present between the C-H bonds in the C2H6 molecule.

Also, no electronegativity difference exists between the carbon atoms in the C-C bond (∆E.N = 0).

Due to the slight electronegativity difference, there is almost equal sharing of the electron cloud between the bonded C and H atoms in the C2H6 molecule.

The C-C bond also has an equal sharing of electrons due to no electronegativity difference between C-atoms.

Consequently, each C-H and C-C bond in the C2H6 molecule is non-polar, leading to the overall non-polarity of the molecule.

C-C and C-H bonds are polar in C2H6

Dipole Moment

The dipole moment is the product of electrical charge (Q) and bond length (r) between two bonded atoms. It is a vector quantity expressed in Debye (D) units.

It is represented by a Greek symbol µ and measures the polarity of a bond.

The dipole moment of any molecule depends on the difference in electronegativity between the bonded atoms. The greater the electronegativity difference, the higher the bond polarity, resulting in a high dipole moment value.

It points from the partial positive (δ+) center to the partial negative (δ) center of a bond or molecule.

dipole moment representation

As each C-H and C-C bond in the C2H6 molecule is non-polar due to very little to no electronegativity difference, each bond has no dipole moment value.

Thus, the C2H6 molecule is non-polar due to zero dipole moment overall.

dipole moment of C2H6

Molecular geometry

As discussed earlier, an ethane (C2H6) molecule consists of six single C-H covalent bonds. The overall molecule consists of a total of 14 valence electrons.

What is C2H6 lewis structure

According to the Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion Theory (VSEPR) theory of chemical bonding, C2H6 is an AX4-type molecule. Around each central C-atom, there are 4 bond pairs of electrons. There are no lone pairs of electrons on the central atom, so the ethane (C2H6) molecule experiences no distortion in its shape.

Due to the absence of disorientation due to no lone pairs on the central C-atom, the C2H6 molecule has a symmetrical tetrahedral shape with a bond angle of 109.5°.

As a result, the dipole moments, if any, on each side along the C-H and C-C bonds will cancel out each other, making C2H6 a non-polar molecule.

In conclusion, C2H6 is a non-polar molecule with a net dipole moment value equal to zero.

why is C2H6 (ethane) nonpolar

Difference between polar and nonpolar?

Polar moleculeNon-polar molecule
Atoms must have a difference in
electronegativity
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), nitric oxide (NO), bromine pentafluoride (BrF5), etc.Examples include oxygen (O2), nitrogen (N2), methane (CH4), carbon disulfide (CS2), beryllium chloride (BeCl2), ethane (C2H6), etc.

Also, check –

FAQ

Why is ethane (C2H6) a non-polar molecule?

According to the Pauling scale, a bond is non-polar covalent if a molecule’s electronegativity difference in bonded atoms ranges less than 0.5 units.

  • The individual C-H bonds in the C2H6 molecule are non-polar due to an electronegativity difference of only 0.35 units between C and H atoms.
  • Each C-C bond is also non-polar, as there is no electronegativity difference between the bonded C atoms.
  • The molecule (C2H6) overall is non-polar because it has a symmetric tetrahedral geometry.
  • The individual dipole moments, if any, get canceled in opposite directions. So, net µ becomes zero in the molecule.

Thus, C2H6 is a non-polar molecule with a zero net dipole moment.

polarity of C2H6 (Ethane)

C2H6 and CH2Br2 have the same tetrahedral geometry, but C2H6 is non-polar, while CH2Br2 is polar. Why?

Each C-H and C-C bond in the ethane (C2H6) molecule is non-polar due to a little to no electronegativity difference between the bonded atoms.

The dipole moment of each C-H bond and C-C, if any, will cancel out each other in the symmetrical tetrahedral structure.

Thus, C2H6 is non-polar.

As the carbon in the CH2Br2 molecule is bonded to two different atoms, all the bonds (C-H and C-Br) are not symmetrical.

The dipole moments of the bonds do not cancel out each other.

Thus, CH2Br2 is polar.

polarity of C2H6 vs CH2Br2

Is ethane (C2H6) soluble in water?

It is a general principle that “Like dissolves like”.

Water is a polar molecule, while ethane is a non-polar molecule.

Water molecules are attracted to other molecules through hydrogen bonding. Non-polar molecules like ethane do not have a dipole moment and therefore do not engage in hydrogen bonding. As a result, they are not soluble in water.

Is there a formal charge on the bonded atoms in the C2H6 molecule?

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

For hydrogen atoms

  • Valence electrons = 1
  • Bonding electrons = 2
  • Non-bonding electrons = 0

∴ The formal charge on the hydrogen atoms  = 1-0-2/2  = 1-1 = 0

For carbon atoms

  • Valence electrons = 4
  • Bonding electrons = 8
  • Non-bonding electrons = 0

∴ The formal charge on the central carbon atoms  = 4-0-8/2 = 4-4  = 0

Thus, no formal charge is present on the ethane (C2H6) molecule.

Summary

  • Ethane (C2H6) is a non-polar molecule.
  • The individual C-H bonds are non-polar due to an electronegativity difference of only 0.35 units between the bonded atoms.
  • The C-C bond is also non-polar, as there is no electronegativity difference between the bonded atoms (∆E.N = 0).
  • Due to the symmetric tetrahedral molecular geometry of the C2H6 molecule, the dipole moments of the individual C-C and C-H bonds, if any, will be canceled in opposite directions.
  • In conclusion, C2H6 is a non-polar molecule with net µ =0.
  • The H-C-H bond angle is 109.5°.
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