# What is the Difference Between Dipole Moment and Polarizability

The main difference between dipole moment and polarizability is that dipole moment is a measure of the separation of electric charge within a molecule or atom, whereas polarizability is a property of an atom or molecule that describes how easily an external electric field can distort it.

Dipole moment and polarizability are fundamental concepts in the realm of chemistry, each with its unique significance. The dipole moment provides insights into the charge distribution within molecules, shedding light on their polarity and reactivity. On the other hand, polarizability influences the behavior of atoms and molecules by dictating their ability to respond to external electric fields, impacting a range of chemical, physical, and biological properties.

### Key Areas Covered

1. What is Dipole Moment
– Definition, Measurement, Features
2. What is Polarizability
– Definition, Measurement, Features
3. Similarities Between Dipole Moment and Polarizability
– Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Dipole Moment and Polarizability
– Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Dipole Moment and Polarizability
– Frequently Asked Questions

### Key Terms

Dipole Moment, Polarizability

## What is a Dipole Moment

A dipole moment is a vector quantity that measures the magnitude and direction of the separation of electric charge within a molecule. This separation leads to the creation of an electric dipole, which consists of a positive end and a negative end. The electric dipole moment is a quantitative representation of this charge separation and plays a crucial role in characterizing the polarity of molecules.

Mathematically, the dipole moment (μ) is expressed as a product of the charge (Q) and the distance (r) of separation between the charges:

μ = Q × r

Here, Q represents the magnitude of the charge, and r is the separation between the charges. In practice, dipole moments are often measured in units of debye (D), with 1 debye being approximately equal to 3.336 × 10^(-30) coulomb meters (C·m).

Experimental techniques for measuring dipole moments have evolved over time.

Figure 1: Magnetic Dipole Moment

### What are the Common Methods Used to Determine the Dipole Moments of Molecules

Microwave Spectroscopy: This technique uses microwave radiation to excite rotational transitions in gas-phase molecules. By analyzing the resulting spectra, researchers can determine the dipole moment of the molecule.

Infrared Spectroscopy: Infrared spectroscopy can be used to measure dipole moments by analyzing the vibrational modes of molecules. Vibrational transitions are sensitive to changes in molecular dipole moments.

Dielectric Constant: The dielectric constant (also known as the relative permittivity) of a substance is related to its polarizability and the dipole moment of the molecules within it. Measuring the dielectric constant can provide information about the dipole moments in a material.

Computational Methods: Theoretical calculations using quantum mechanical methods are increasingly used to estimate dipole moments. These calculations are based on the electronic structure of the molecule and its geometry.

The concept of a dipole moment is a fundamental aspect of chemistry with a wide range of applications. It plays a crucial role in understanding molecular properties and behavior. Some key applications include providing insights into chemical bonding, influencing solubility in various solvents, explaining intermolecular forces, affecting physical properties such as boiling and melting points, aiding in spectroscopic analysis, influencing chemical reactivity, and contributing to the understanding of biological systems. Moreover, dipole moments are invaluable in predicting the behavior and interactions of molecules in various chemical and biological contexts.

## What is Polarizability

Polarizability is a property that characterizes how easily an external electric field can distort the electron cloud of an atom or molecule. When an external electric field is applied, the positively charged nucleus and negatively charged electrons in an atom or molecule will experience a force due to the field. This force leads to a temporary redistribution of the electron cloud, creating an induced electric dipole moment. The ease with which this distortion occurs is quantified as the polarizability of the atom or molecule.

Mathematically, polarizability (α) is defined as the ratio of the induced electric dipole moment (μ) to the external electric field (E):

α = μ / E

Polarizability is generally expressed in units of cubic angstroms (Å³) or Bohr³, where 1 Å³ is approximately equal to 0.148184 Bohr³.

The polarizability of an atom or molecule is strongly influenced by its size, shape, and electronic structure.

Figure 2: Neutron Polarization

### What are  the Factors Contributing to the Polarizability of a Species

Size of Electron Cloud: Larger atoms and molecules tend to have higher polarizabilities because their electron clouds are more extensive. The greater the volume of electrons, the more they can be distorted by an external electric field.

Number of Electrons: Species with more electrons have higher polarizabilities. A greater number of electrons results in a denser and more easily polarized electron cloud.

Shape: The shape of the electron distribution also affects polarizability. An electron cloud that is less symmetric or more diffuse is easier to distort than a tightly packed, symmetric one.

Bonding Electrons: The presence of loosely held or non-bonding electrons can contribute significantly to polarizability. An external electric field more easily displaces these electrons.

Polarizability is a fundamental concept in chemistry with wide-ranging applications and implications. It underlies the formation of van der Waals forces, including dispersion forces, which impact the cohesion of nonpolar substances and the properties of gases, liquids, and solids. Polarizability also influences chemical reactivity by facilitating interactions between molecules. In the realm of optics, it affects the optical properties of materials, such as dispersion, refractive indices, and birefringence. Additionally, polarizability plays a role in determining various thermodynamic properties, like molar volume and thermal expansion coefficients. Furthermore, in biochemistry, it is crucial to understand the interactions and responses of biological molecules in living systems, including proteins, DNA, and membranes.

## Similarities Between Dipole Moment and Polarizability

• Both quantities are measures of charge distribution.
• Moreover, these properties are sensitive to electronegativity.

## Difference Between Dipole Moment and Polarizability

### Definition

A dipole moment is a measure of the separation of electric charge within a molecule or atom, quantifying the polarity of a molecule. On the other hand, polarizability is a property that describes how easily an external electric field can distort the electron cloud of an atom or molecule.

### Measurement

Dipole moment is measured in units of debye (D), whereas polarizability is typically expressed in units of cubic angstroms (Å³) or Bohr³.

### Direction

Moreover, the dipole moment has a direction, indicating the orientation of the positive and negative ends within a molecule. However, polarizability does not have a direction; it’s a scalar property related to the ability of the electron cloud to be distorted.

## FAQ: Dipole Moment and Polarizability

### Does a higher dipole moment mean higher polarity?

Yes, a higher dipole moment generally indicates higher polarity in a molecule.

### Does polarizability affect dipole forces?

Yes.  The more polarizable the nonpolar molecule, the easier it is to induce a dipole.

### What does a higher dipole moment mean?

A higher dipole moment means having a larger electronegativity difference.

## Conclusion

The main difference between dipole moment and polarizability is that dipole moment is a measure of the separation of electric charge within a molecule or atom, whereas polarizability is a property of an atom or molecule that describes how easily an external electric field can distort it.

##### Reference:

1. “Dipole Moments.” Chemistry LibreTexts.
2. “Polarizability.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation.

##### Image Courtesy:

1. “Magnetic-dipole-moment-(simple)” By MikeRun – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Neutron polarization and attraction” By Bengt Nyman – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

### About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.