# 3.3: Intermolecular Forces in Liquids


Learning Objectives

• To describe the intermolecular forces in liquids.

## Hydrogen Bonds

Molecules with hydrogen atoms bonded to electronegative atoms such as O, N, and F (and to a much lesser extent Cl and S) tend to exhibit unusually strong intermolecular interactions. These result in much higher boiling points than are observed for substances in which London dispersion forces dominate, as illustrated for the covalent hydrides of elements of groups 14–17 in Figure $$\PageIndex{1}$$. Methane and its heavier congeners in group 14 form a series whose boiling points increase smoothly with increasing molar mass. This is the expected trend in nonpolar molecules, for which London dispersion forces are the exclusive intermolecular forces. In contrast, the hydrides of the lightest members of groups 15–17 have boiling points that are more than 100°C greater than predicted on the basis of their molar masses. The effect is most dramatic for water: if we extend the straight line connecting the points for H2Te and H2Se to the line for period 2, we obtain an estimated boiling point of −130°C for water! Imagine the implications for life on Earth if water boiled at −130°C rather than 100°C.

Why do strong intermolecular forces produce such anomalously high boiling points and other unusual properties, such as high enthalpies of vaporization and high melting points? The answer lies in the highly polar nature of the bonds between hydrogen and very electronegative elements such as O, N, and F. The large difference in electronegativity results in a large partial positive charge on hydrogen and a correspondingly large partial negative charge on the O, N, or F atom. Consequently, H–O, H–N, and H–F bonds have very large bond dipoles that can interact strongly with one another. Because a hydrogen atom is so small, these dipoles can also approach one another more closely than most other dipoles. The combination of large bond dipoles and short dipole–dipole distances results in very strong dipole–dipole interactions called hydrogen bonds, as shown for ice in Figure $$\PageIndex{2}$$. A hydrogen bond is usually indicated by a dotted line between the hydrogen atom attached to O, N, or F (the hydrogen bond donor) and the atom that has the lone pair of electrons (the hydrogen bond acceptor). Because each water molecule contains two hydrogen atoms and two lone pairs, a tetrahedral arrangement maximizes the number of hydrogen bonds that can be formed. In the structure of ice, each oxygen atom is surrounded by a distorted tetrahedron of hydrogen atoms that form bridges to the oxygen atoms of adjacent water molecules. The bridging hydrogen atoms are not equidistant from the two oxygen atoms they connect, however. Instead, each hydrogen atom is 101 pm from one oxygen and 174 pm from the other. In contrast, each oxygen atom is bonded to two H atoms at the shorter distance and two at the longer distance, corresponding to two O–H covalent bonds and two O⋅⋅⋅H hydrogen bonds from adjacent water molecules, respectively. The resulting open, cagelike structure of ice means that the solid is actually slightly less dense than the liquid, which explains why ice floats on water rather than sinks.

Each water molecule accepts two hydrogen bonds from two other water molecules and donates two hydrogen atoms to form hydrogen bonds with two more water molecules, producing an open, cagelike structure. The structure of liquid water is very similar, but in the liquid, the hydrogen bonds are continually broken and formed because of rapid molecular motion.

It takes two to tango...

Hydrogen bond formation requires both a hydrogen bond donor and a hydrogen bond acceptor.

Because ice is less dense than liquid water, rivers, lakes, and oceans freeze from the top down. In fact, the ice forms a protective surface layer that insulates the rest of the water, allowing fish and other organisms to survive in the lower levels of a frozen lake or sea. If ice were denser than the liquid, the ice formed at the surface in cold weather would sink as fast as it formed. Bodies of water would freeze from the bottom up, which would be lethal for most aquatic creatures. The expansion of water when freezing also explains why automobile or boat engines must be protected by “antifreeze” and why unprotected pipes in houses break if they are allowed to freeze.

Example $$\PageIndex{1}$$

Considering CH3OH, C2H6, Xe, and (CH3)3N, which can form hydrogen bonds with themselves? Draw the hydrogen-bonded structures.

Given: compounds

Asked for: formation of hydrogen bonds and structure

Strategy:

1. Identify the compounds with a hydrogen atom attached to O, N, or F. These are likely to be able to act as hydrogen bond donors.
2. Of the compounds that can act as hydrogen bond donors, identify those that also contain lone pairs of electrons, which allow them to be hydrogen bond acceptors. If a substance is both a hydrogen donor and a hydrogen bond acceptor, draw a structure showing the hydrogen bonding.

Solution:

A Of the species listed, xenon (Xe), ethane (C2H6), and trimethylamine [(CH3)3N] do not contain a hydrogen atom attached to O, N, or F; hence they cannot act as hydrogen bond donors.

B The one compound that can act as a hydrogen bond donor, methanol (CH3OH), contains both a hydrogen atom attached to O (making it a hydrogen bond donor) and two lone pairs of electrons on O (making it a hydrogen bond acceptor); methanol can thus form hydrogen bonds by acting as either a hydrogen bond donor or a hydrogen bond acceptor. The hydrogen-bonded structure of methanol is as follows:

Exercise $$\PageIndex{1}$$

Considering $$\ce{CH3CO2H}$$, $$\ce{(CH3)3N}$$, $$\ce{NH3}$$, and $$\ce{CH3F}$$, which can form hydrogen bonds with themselves? Draw the hydrogen-bonded structures.

$$\ce{CH3CO2H}$$ and $$\ce{NH3}$$;

Although hydrogen bonds are significantly weaker than covalent bonds, with typical dissociation energies of only 15–25 kJ/mol, they have a significant influence on the physical properties of a compound. Compounds such as $$\ce{HF}$$ can form only two hydrogen bonds at a time as can, on average, pure liquid NH3. Consequently, even though their molecular masses are similar to that of water, their boiling points are significantly lower than the boiling point of water, which forms four hydrogen bonds at a time.

Example $$\PageIndex{2}$$

Arrange C60 (buckminsterfullerene, which has a cage structure), NaCl, He, Ar, and N2O in order of increasing boiling points.

Given: compounds

Asked for: order of increasing boiling points

Strategy:

Identify the intermolecular forces in each compound and then arrange the compounds according to the strength of those forces. The substance with the weakest forces will have the lowest boiling point.

Solution:

Electrostatic interactions are strongest for an ionic compound, so we expect NaCl to have the highest boiling point. To predict the relative boiling points of the other compounds, we must consider their polarity (for dipole–dipole interactions), their ability to form hydrogen bonds, and their molar mass (for London dispersion forces). Helium is nonpolar and by far the lightest, so it should have the lowest boiling point. Argon and N2O have very similar molar masses (40 and 44 g/mol, respectively), but N2O is polar while Ar is not. Consequently, N2O should have a higher boiling point. A C60 molecule is nonpolar, but its molar mass is 720 g/mol, much greater than that of Ar or N2O. Because the boiling points of nonpolar substances increase rapidly with molecular mass, C60 should boil at a higher temperature than the other nonionic substances. The predicted order is thus as follows, with actual boiling points in parentheses:

He (−269°C) < Ar (−185.7°C) < N2O (−88.5°C) < C60 (>280°C) < NaCl (1465°C).

Exercise $$\PageIndex{2}$$

Arrange 2,4-dimethylheptane, Ne, CS2, Cl2, and KBr in order of decreasing boiling points.

KBr (1435°C) > 2,4-dimethylheptane (132.9°C) > CS2 (46.6°C) > Cl2 (−34.6°C) > Ne (−246°C)

Special Properties of Water

Besides mercury, water has the highest surface tension for all liquids. Water's high surface tension is due to the hydrogen bonding in water molecules. Water also has an exceptionally high heat of vaporization. Vaporization occurs when a liquid changes to a gas, which makes it an endothermic reaction. Water's heat of vaporization is 41 kJ/mol. Vapor pressure is inversely related to intermolecular forces, so those with stronger intermolecular forces have a lower vapor pressure. Water has very strong intermolecular forces, hence the low vapor pressure, but it's even lower compared to larger molecules with low vapor pressures.

• Viscosity is the property of fluid having high resistance to flow. We normally think of liquids like honey or motor oil being viscous, but when compared to other substances with like structures, water is viscous. Liquids with stronger intermolecular interactions are usually more viscous than liquids with weak intermolecular interactions.
• Cohesion is intermolecular forces between like molecules; this is why water molecules are able to hold themselves together in a drop. Water molecules are very cohesive because of the molecule's polarity. This is why you can fill a glass of water just barely above the rim without it spilling.

Because of water's polarity, it is able to dissolve or dissociate many particles. Oxygen has a slightly negative charge, while the two hydrogens have a slightly positive charge. The slightly negative particles of a compound will be attracted to water's hydrogen atoms, while the slightly positive particles will be attracted to water's oxygen molecule; this causes the compound to dissociate.

Besides the explanations above, we can look to some attributes of a water molecule to provide some more reasons of water's uniqueness:

• Forgetting fluorine, oxygen is the most electronegative non-noble gas element, so while forming a bond, the electrons are pulled towards the oxygen atom rather than the hydrogen. This creates two polar bonds, which make the water molecule more polar than the bonds in the other hydrides in the group.
• A 104.5° bond angle creates a very strong dipole.
• Water has hydrogen bonding which probably is a vital aspect in water's strong intermolecular interaction

The properties of water make it suitable for organisms to survive in during differing weather conditions. Water expands as it freezes, which explains why ice is able to float on liquid water. During the winter when lakes begin to freeze, the surface of the water freezes and then moves down toward deeper water; this explains why people can ice skate on or fall through a frozen lake. If ice was not able to float, the lake would freeze from the bottom up killing all ecosystems living in the lake. However ice floats, so the fish are able to survive under the surface of the ice during the winter. The surface of ice above a lake also shields lakes from the cold temperature outside and insulates the water beneath it, allowing the lake under the frozen ice to stay liquid and maintain a temperature adequate for the ecosystems living in the lake to survive.

## Summary

Intermolecular forces are electrostatic in nature and include van der Waals forces and hydrogen bonds. Molecules in liquids are held to other molecules by intermolecular interactions, which are weaker than the intramolecular interactions that hold the atoms together within molecules and polyatomic ions. Transitions between the solid and liquid or the liquid and gas phases are due to changes in intermolecular interactions but do not affect intramolecular interactions. The three major types of intermolecular interactions are dipole–dipole interactions, London dispersion forces (these two are often referred to collectively as van der Waals forces), and hydrogen bonds. Dipole–dipole interactions arise from the electrostatic interactions of the positive and negative ends of molecules with permanent dipole moments; their strength is proportional to the magnitude of the dipole moment and to 1/r6, where r is the distance between dipoles. London dispersion forces are due to the formation of instantaneous dipole moments in polar or nonpolar molecules as a result of short-lived fluctuations of electron charge distribution, which in turn cause the temporary formation of an induced dipole in adjacent molecules. Like dipole–dipole interactions, their energy falls off as 1/r6. Larger atoms tend to be more polarizable than smaller ones because their outer electrons are less tightly bound and are therefore more easily perturbed. Hydrogen bonds are especially strong dipole–dipole interactions between molecules that have hydrogen bonded to a highly electronegative atom, such as O, N, or F. The resulting partially positively charged H atom on one molecule (the hydrogen bond donor) can interact strongly with a lone pair of electrons of a partially negatively charged O, N, or F atom on adjacent molecules (the hydrogen bond acceptor). Because of strong O⋅⋅⋅H hydrogen bonding between water molecules, water has an unusually high boiling point, and ice has an open, cagelike structure that is less dense than liquid water.

3.3: Intermolecular Forces in Liquids is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Delmar Larsen.