Q:

Is isopropyl alcohol polar or nonpolar?

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Quick Answer

Isopropyl alcohol, like all alcohols, is polar. It is polar because one of the properties of alcohol is hydroxyl, which forms hydrogen bonds and dissolves water molecules. Hydroxyl groups make electrons spend more time near the electronegative oxygen atom of the compound, so any compound with hydroxyl groups is polar.

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Full Answer

Isopropyl alcohol has a molecular formula of C3H8O. Because it is a polar compound, it can be used to dissolve a number of non-polar substances.

According to Ron Kurtis' School of Champions, an educational resource, polarity is the separation of electric charge in molecules that leads the molecules to have specific dipole or multipole movement. The polarity of a molecule is dependent on the difference in electronegativity between the atoms in the molecule. For polar substances like alcohol, the polarity is based on the chemical structure of the molecule.

Isopropyl alcohol contains hydroxyl groups, which are chemical groups formed by an oxygen atom with a covalent bond to a hydrogen atom. These groups can form hydrogen bonds with water molecules, which are also polar molecules. The structure of hydroxyl groups makes the electrons in the molecule spend more time near the oxygen atom, rather than the carbon or hydrogen atoms. The oxygen atom is electronegative. This collecting of electrons near the oxygen atom is what makes the compound polar.

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