Is Methane Nonpolar?

Storage tanks at a biogas plant.
••• scalatore1959/iStock/Getty Images

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a nonpolar molecule. In it, four hydrogen atoms surround a single carbon in a three-dimensional arrangement shaped like a four-sided pyramid. The symmetry of the hydrogens on the corners of the pyramid evenly distribute electric charge on the molecule, making it nonpolar.

Polar vs. Nonpolar Molecules

Molecules can be classified as polar or nonpolar. On a polar molecule, one side or area has more negative electric charge, making the opposite side positive. By contrast, a nonpolar molecule has a fairly uniform charge on its outside surface, making no side more negative or positive than another. Both the shape of the molecule and the type of bonds between atoms determine whether it’s polar or not.

Effects of Polarity

On a polar molecule, the positive side attracts the negative side of a neighboring molecule, so that polar molecules clump together in small groups. For example, water, a polar molecule, forms snowflake crystals when it freezes. Polar molecules also absorb microwave radiation. That's why you can heat water in a microwave oven, whereas nonpolar molecules such as methane are typically transparent to microwaves.

Related Articles

Differences Between Polar & Nonpolar in Chemistry
What Dissolves Oil?
What is a Polar Molecule?
Three Ways That Polarity of Water Molecules Affect...
How is a Water Molecule Like a Magnet?
What Happens to Ionic & Covalent Compounds When They...
Characteristics of Hydrogen Bonding
Molecular Activity of Water Vs. Oil
How to Determine if a Molecule Is Planar
Intermolecular Forces in the Structure of Propane
What Are Two Major Characteristics of a Molecular Compound?
Why Are Lipids Insoluble in Water?
Why Does Styrofoam Dissolve in Turpentine?
Examples of Immiscible Liquids
How Do Polar Molecules Form Hydrogen Bonds?
What Factors Affect Melting Point?
Trilaminar Structure of the Cell Membrane
Test Your Knowledge on Middle School Science
What Intermolecular Forces are Present in Water?
Defining Characteristics of Lipid Molecules

Dont Go!

We Have More Great Sciencing Articles!