Intermolecular force

Intermolecular forces (IMFs) are the forces which mediate interaction between molecules, including forces of attraction or repulsion which act between molecules and other types of neighboring particles, e.g., atoms or ions. Inter-molecular forces are weak relative to intramolecular forces – the forces which hold a molecule together. For example, the covalent bond, involving sharing electron pairs between atoms, is much stronger than the forces present between neighboring molecules. Both sets of forces are essential parts of force fields frequently used in molecular mechanics.

The investigation of inter-molecular forces starts from macroscopic observations which indicate the existence and action of forces at a molecular level. These observations include non-ideal-gas thermodynamic behavior reflected by virial coefficients, vapor pressure, viscosity, superficial tension, and absorption data.

The first reference to the nature of microscopic forces is found in Alexis Clairaut's work Theorie de la Figure DE la Terre. [1] Other scientists who have contributed to the investigation of microscopic forces include: Laplace, Gauss, Maxwell and Boltzmann.

Attractive intermolecular forces are considered by the following types:

Information on intermolecular force is obtained by macroscopic measurements of properties like viscosity, pressure, volume, temperature (PVT) data. The link to microscopic aspects is given by virial coefficients and Lennard-Jones potentials

Dipole–dipole and similar interactions

Permanent dipole

Dipole–dipole interactions are electrostatic interactions between molecules which have permanent dipole(s). These are discussed below in van der Waals forces.These interactions tend to align the molecules to increase attraction (reducing potential energy). An example of a dipole–dipole interaction can be seen in hydrogen chloride (HCl): the positive end of a polar molecule will attract the negative end of the other molecule and influence its position. Polar molecules have a net attraction between them. Examples of polar molecules include hydrogen chloride (HCl) and chloroform (CHCl3).

Often molecules contain dipolar groups, but have no overall dipole moment. This occurs if there is symmetry within the molecule that causes the dipoles to cancel each other out. This occurs in molecules such as tetrachloromethane and carbon dioxide. The dipole-dipole interaction between two individual atoms is usually zero, since atoms rarely carry a permanent dipole.

Ion–dipole and ion-induced dipole forces

Ion-dipole and ion-induced dipole forces are similar to dipole-dipole and dipole-induced dipole interactions but involve ions, instead of only polar and non-polar molecules. Ion-dipole and ion-induced dipole forces are stronger than dipole-dipole interactions because the charge of any ion is much greater than the charge of a dipole moment. Ion-dipole bonding is stronger than hydrogen bonding.[ citation needed]

An ion–dipole force consists of an ion and a polar molecule interacting. They align so that the positive and negative groups are next to one another, allowing maximum attraction.

An ion-induced dipole force consists of an ion and a non-polar molecule interacting. Like a dipole-induced dipole force, the charge of the ion causes distortion of the electron cloud on the non-polar molecule. [2]

Hydrogen bonding

A hydrogen bond is the attraction between the lone pair of an electronegative atom and a hydrogen atom that is bonded to either nitrogen, oxygen, or fluorine. [3] The hydrogen bond is often described as a strong electrostatic dipole-dipole interaction. However, it also has some features of covalent bonding: it is directional, stronger than a van der Waals force interaction, produces interatomic distances shorter than the sum of van der Waals radius, and usually involves a limited number of interaction partners, which can be interpreted as a kind of valence.


Intermolecular hydrogen bonding is responsible for the high boiling point of water (100 °C) compared to the other group 16 hydrides, which have no hydrogen bonds. Intramolecular hydrogen oxygen bonding is partly responsible for the secondary, tertiary, and quaternary structures of proteins and nucleic acids. It also plays an important role in the structure of polymers, both synthetic and natural.[ citation needed]

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Simple English: Intermolecular force
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