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Which is expected to have the largest dispersion forces?
The intermolecular forces of attraction (IMFA) present between molecules varies in strength depending on the polarity of the molecule being considered. Among the different intermolecular forces, London-dispersion forces are the weakest. These forces of attraction result from the induced dipoles of the electrons in the bonds of the molecules. Since all covalent compounds have shared electrons between two atoms, all of them, regardless of polarity, have dispersion forces but only the nonpolar ones are highly affected by the forces.
The strength of dispersion forces generally increases with the number of electrons in the atom or molecule. Since has a lot more electrons than any of the other compounds, it will have the largest dispersion forces.
As was the case for gaseous substances, the kinetic molecular theory may be used to explain the behavior of solids and liquids. In the following description, the term particle will be used to refer to an atom, molecule, or ion. Note that we will use the popular phrase “intermolecular attraction” to refer to attractive forces between the particles of a substance, regardless of whether these particles are molecules, atoms, or ions.
Consider these two aspects of the molecular-level environments in solid, liquid, and gaseous matter:
- Particles in a solid are tightly packed together and often arranged in a regular pattern; in a liquid, they are close together with no regular arrangement; in a gas, they are far apart with no regular arrangement.
- Particles in a solid vibrate about fixed positions and do not generally move in relation to one another; in a liquid, they move past each other but remain in essentially constant contact; in a gas, they move independently of one another except when they collide.
The differences in the properties of a solid, liquid, or gas reflect the strengths of the attractive forces between the atoms, molecules, or ions that make up each phase. The phase in which a substance exists depends on the relative extents of its intermolecular forces (IMFs) and the kinetic energies (KE) of its molecules. IMFs are the various forces of attraction that may exist between the atoms and molecules of a substance due to electrostatic phenomena, as will be detailed in this module. These forces serve to hold particles close together, whereas the particles’ KE provides the energy required to overcome the attractive forces and thus increase the distance between particles.
We can also liquefy many gases by compressing them, if the temperature is not too high. The increased pressure brings the molecules of a gas closer together, such that the attractions between the molecules become strong relative to their KE. Consequently, they form liquids. Butane, C4H10, is the fuel used in disposable lighters and is a gas at standard temperature and pressure. Inside the lighter’s fuel compartment, the butane is compressed to a pressure that results in its condensation to the liquid state.
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Forces between Molecules
Under appropriate conditions, the attractions between all gas molecules will cause them to form liquids or solids. This is due to intermolecular forces, not intramolecular forces. Intramolecular forces are those within the molecule that keep the molecule together, for example, the bonds between the atoms. Intermolecular forces are the attractions between molecules, which determine many of the physical properties of a substance.
The strengths of these attractive forces vary widely, though usually the IMFs between small molecules are weak compared to the intramolecular forces that bond atoms together within a molecule. For example, to overcome the IMFs in one mole of liquid HCl and convert it into gaseous HCl requires only about 17 kilojoules. However, to break the covalent bonds between the hydrogen and chlorine atoms in one mole of HCl requires about 25 times more energy—430 kilojoules.