Chem Explorers

Unpacking the Polarity and Properties of C2Cl4

Chemistry may sound like a scary subject, but it deals with some of the most fundamental aspects of our world. From the way our food is digested to the makeup of our body, chemistry is at the forefront of it all.

In this article, we will explore two topics in chemistry: the polarity of C2Cl4 and the chemical properties and uses of tetrachloroethylene.

Polarity of C2Cl4

C2Cl4, also known as tetrachloroethylene, is a molecule composed of two carbon and four chlorine atoms. To determine the polarity of a molecule such as C2Cl4, we need to consider factors such as electronegativity, dipole moment, and molecular geometry.

Electronegativity refers to the tendency of an atom to attract electrons towards itself. In C2Cl4, the carbon atoms have an electronegativity of 2.5, while the chlorine atoms have an electronegativity of 3.0. This difference in electronegativity creates a polar covalent bond between the carbon and chlorine atoms, where the electrons are shared unequally.

The dipole moment of a molecule refers to its overall polarity or separation of charges. In the case of C2Cl4, there is no net dipole moment, despite the polar covalent bonds.

This is because the molecule has a symmetrical tetrahedral shape, where the bonding electrons are evenly distributed around the carbon atoms, and the chlorine atoms cancel each other out. Therefore, C2Cl4 is a nonpolar molecule.

When comparing C2Cl4 to other molecules, one common example is CO2, also known as carbon dioxide. CO2 is a linear molecule with two polar covalent bonds between the carbon and oxygen atoms.

However, the molecule has no net dipole moment due to its symmetrical arrangement, making it a nonpolar molecule similar to C2Cl4.

Chemical Properties and Uses of Tetrachloroethylene

Tetrachloroethylene was first synthesized by Michael Faraday in 1821 through the reaction of hexachloroethane with iron. It is a colorless liquid with a sweet odor commonly used as a dry-cleaning fluid and an organic solvent.

It is a highly stable compound, with a boiling point of 121 degrees Celsius and a melting point of -22.4 degrees Celsius. Tetrachloroethylene is mainly used in the dry-cleaning industry due to its ability to dissolve grease, oils, and other organic compounds from clothing without damaging the fibers.

It is also used as a degreaser in metalworking and as a solvent in the production of adhesives, paints, and coatings. However, tetrachloroethylene is also a hazardous chemical, with long-term exposure leading to adverse health effects such as liver and kidney damage, neurological disorders, and cancer.

It is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).


In conclusion, understanding the polarity of molecules such as C2Cl4, and the chemical properties of compounds such as tetrachloroethylene is crucial to our comprehension of the natural world. While we utilize these compounds in various industrial applications, we must also be aware of their potential harmful effects and use them responsibly.

In chemistry, the concept of electronegativity is crucial in understanding the properties of elements and compounds. Electronegativity refers to the capability of an atom to attract electrons towards itself in a chemical bond.

It is measured on a scale from 0 to 4, with higher values indicating greater electronegativity. In the covalent bond, atoms share electrons to achieve a more stable state.

If the electronegativity difference between the two atoms is zero, the bond is nonpolar, and the electrons are shared equally between them. If the difference in electronegativity is greater than zero but less than 1.7, the bond is called polar covalent, indicating the shared electrons are more attracted towards one atom with higher electronegativity.

In the case of C2Cl4, the bond formed between the carbon and chlorine atoms is a polar covalent bond. The carbon atom has an electronegativity of 2.5, while the chlorine atom’s electronegativity is 3.

Chlorine has a greater electronegativity than carbon, so the electrons spend more time close to the chlorine atoms, creating a slight negative charge around them. Hence, the opposite ends of the molecule acquire partial positive and negative charges, making it polar.

The measure of polarity in a molecule is known as its dipole moment. Dipole moment refers to the magnitude and direction of charge separation in a molecule.

In C2Cl4, the polar covalent bonds create a dipole moment between the carbon atom and the chlorine atoms. The molecule’s dipole moment is zero because the opposing dipole moments cancel each other due to having equal electron density on both ends of the molecule.

The net result is that C2Cl4 is a nonpolar molecule. Molecular geometry plays an important role in determining the overall polarity of a molecule.

The shape of the molecule determines how the partial charges combine to create its dipole moment. If the dipole moments of all bonds in a molecule cancel each other out, the net dipole moment is zero, leading to a nonpolar molecule.

In contrast, if the dipole moments don’t cancel and combine, the molecule acquires a net dipole moment and polarity. The arrangement of atoms in a molecule is described in terms of its 3D arrangement.

In C2Cl4, the molecule’s trigonal planar shape and its geometry drawn out demonstrate its symmetry, creating equal distribution of charges on the molecule’s opposite ends. Polar and nonpolar molecules exhibit several differences in their properties.

Polar molecules have a net dipole moment, while nonpolar ones do not. It means polar molecules exhibit electrostatic attraction and repulsion due to their different electronegativity values and unequal electron distribution.

Nonpolar molecules do not exhibit these properties since their electrons have equal distribution between the atoms. As a result, polar molecules tend to interact with other polar molecules, while nonpolar molecules interact with nonpolar molecules.

Water, ammonia, and ethanol are examples of polar molecules, where oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur atoms respectively show an attraction towards other atoms with different electronegativity values. On the other hand, oxygen, nitrogen, and methane are examples of nonpolar molecules due to the equal sharing of electrons between atoms in the covalent bond.

In conclusion, understanding the concepts of polarity and electronegativity is fundamental in comprehending many chemical reactions and interactions. These concepts can help us predict the behavior of a substance in a given reaction, as well as its physical and chemical properties.

C2Cl4 is a prime example of how the shape of a molecule can determine its overall polarity, despite having polar covalent bonds. Understanding the differences between polar and nonpolar molecules can help us understand an object’s property based on its bonding nature’s fundamental principles.

C2Cl4, or tetrachloroethylene, is a chemical compound composed of a carbon and four chlorine atoms. In this section, we will delve further into the characteristics and properties of C2Cl4, which are crucial in understanding its various applications and potential uses in the future.

Hybridization and Geometry

The bonding in C2Cl4 involves hybridization of the carbon atom’s orbitals. In C2Cl4, the central carbon atom undergoes sp hybridization to form the tetrahedral structure.

This hybridization results from the combination of the 2s and 2p atomic orbitals of the carbon atom.

Additionally, this hybridization creates an asymmetric bond angle, with the carbon-carbon bond angle being larger than the carbon-chlorine bond angles.

The carbon-carbon bond angle is approximately 120 degrees, while the carbon-chlorine bond angle measures around 109.5 degrees.

Symmetry and Dipole Moment

The geometry of C2Cl4 is planar symmetric, where each carbon-chlorine bond takes up the same position and has the same bond angle. As a result, the opposing dipole moments generated by these bonds cancel each other out.

Thus, C2Cl4 has no net dipole moment, indicating it is nonpolar. The molecular symmetry of C2Cl4 enables the quantity of the opposing bond moments to cancel, making the molecule nonpolar.

The opposing dipole moment is due to the polar covalent bond that occurs between carbon and chlorine. The bonding electrons move closer to the electronegative chlorine atoms, causing a partial negative charge on one end and a positive charge on the other atom end.

However, this opposing dipole moment cancels each other out due to the symmetrical planar structure of the molecule.

Overall Polarity

The overall polarity of C2Cl4 arises because the molecule contains polar covalent bonds despite having an overall symmetrical shape. Each carbon atom in C2Cl4 contributes two electrons to the bond, while each chlorine atom contributes one.

As a result, the electrons are not evenly distributed in the bond, and the electrons end up near the chlorine atoms, giving them a partial negative charge, while the carbon atoms get a partial positive charge. Despite the nature of these polar covalent bonds, the opposing polarities cancel out due to the planar symmetric nature of the molecule.

In other words, the molecule’s lack of a net dipole moment allows the molecule to be regarded as nonpolar. This outcome follows the principle that fully polar bonds exist when there’s a great difference in the electronegativity values between two atoms.

In C2Cl4, the electronegativity difference of 0.5 between carbon and chlorine atoms is not high enough to result in a fully polar bond.


In conclusion, C2Cl4’s characteristic properties include its sp hybridization, planar symmetric geometry, and nonpolar nature resulting from these features are the opposing dipoles canceling out. The lack of a net dipole moment in this molecule makes it suitable for applications in various fields and industries, ranging from dry cleaning to organic solvents.

The insights gained from understanding C2Cl4 and its features can help us predict the behavior of other chemical compounds, enabling safer, sustainable, and efficient use of various chemical substances. In conclusion, this article provided an in-depth understanding of the fundamental concepts of electronegativity and polarity in chemistry, and how they relate to the molecule C2Cl4.

Polar covalent bonds, dipole moments, and molecular geometry were described, along with examples of polar and nonpolar molecules. It also explained the hybridization and geometry of C2Cl4, its symmetrical nature and nonpolarity, and its potential applications in various fields.

The takeaways are that understanding the polarity and electronegativity of chemical compounds is crucial to predicting their behavior and ensuring safe and sustainable use. As always, it’s essential to review safety precautions before working with any hazardous substance.


Q: What does polarity mean? A: Polarity refers to the unequal distribution of electrons in a chemical bond, resulting in partial charges on opposite ends of the molecule.

Q: How is polarity determined? A: Polarity is determined by the difference in electronegativity between the atoms in a bond and the molecule’s geometry.

Q: What is electronegativity? A: Electronegativity is the ability of an atom to attract electrons towards itself in a chemical bond.

Q: What is the polarity of C2Cl4? A: Despite having polar covalent bonds, C2Cl4 is a nonpolar molecule due to its symmetrical molecular structure.

Q: Why is understanding polarity and electronegativity important? A: Understanding polarity and electronegativity in chemical compounds is crucial to predicting their behavior and ensuring safe and sustainable use in various fields.

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