Is CH4 (Methane) Polar or Nonpolar? (And Why?)

Is CH4 Polar or Nonpolar

CH4 (Methane) is a NONPOLAR molecule.

But why? 

And how can you say that CH4 is a nonpolar molecule?

Want to know the reason?
Let’s dive into it!

CH4 (or Methane) is a NONPOLAR molecule because all the four bonds (C-H bonds) are identical and CH4 has symmetrical geometry.
Also the electronegativity difference of Carbon atom (C = 2.55) and Hydrogen atom (H = 2.2) is 0.35 (i.e 2.55 – 2.2 = 0.35), which is very less. Hence the CH4 molecule is a nonpolar molecule.

Let me explain this in detail with the help of CH4 lewis structure and its 3D geometry.

Why is CH4 a Nonpolar molecule? (Explained in 2 Steps)

CH4 is a nonpolar molecule because it does not have any pole of positive charge and negative charge on it.

Let me explain this to you in just 2 steps!

Step #1: Draw the lewis structure

Here is a skeleton of CH4 lewis structure and it contains four C-H bonds.

Is CH4 Polar or Nonpolar

(Note: If you want to know the steps of drawing the CH4 lewis dot structure, then visit this article: CH4 lewis structure, Or you can also watch this short 2 minute video).

So from the above diagram we have come to know that the CH4 molecule has four C-H bonds.

Now in the next step we have to check whether these four C-H bonds are polar or nonpolar.

And we also have to check the molecular geometry of CH4.

Step #2: Check the bond polarity and molecular geometry

The chemical bonds can be either nonpolar, polar or ionic depending on the difference of the electronegativity values (ΔEN) between the two atoms.

Have a look at the above image.

  • If the electronegativity difference (ΔEN) is less than 0.4, then the bond is nonpolar covalent bond.
  • If the electronegativity difference (ΔEN) is between 0.4 to 1.7, then the bond is polar covalent bond. 
  • If the electronegativity difference (ΔEN) is greater than 1.7, then the bond is an ionic bond. [1] [2] [3] [4]

Now let’s come to the example of CH4 molecule. It has four C-H bonds.

You can see the electronegativity values of Carbon (C) and Hydrogen (H) atoms from the periodic table given below.

From the above image;

  • Electronegativity of Carbon (C) = 2.55 [5]
  • Electronegativity of Hydrogen (H) = 2.2 [6]

Now let’s see the polarity of each bond.

For C-H bond;
The electronegativity difference (ΔEN) = 2.55 – 2.2 = 0.35
This value is less than 0.4, which indicates that the bond between Carbon (C) and Hydrogen (H) is nonpolar.
Hence, each C-H bond is a nonpolar covalent bond.

As each C-H bonds are nonpolar, there will not be any partial positive charge (ẟ+) or partial negative charge (ẟ-) on the carbon and hydrogen atoms.

From this, you can easily get the idea that the CH4 molecule is a nonpolar molecule.

But let’s also see whether this CH4 molecule has a symmetric geometry or not.

Is CH4 Polar or Nonpolar

Have a look at this 3D structure of CH4. You can see that the structure of CH4 is symmetrical. 

The carbon atom is at the center and it is surrounded by 4 hydrogen atoms which are equidistant as well as at equal angles.

As all the four bonds (C-H) are nonpolar and the CH4 molecule has a symmetrical geometry, there are no positive and negative poles of charges on the overall molecule of CH4.

Hence, the CH4 molecule is a nonpolar molecule.

I hope you have understood the reason behind the nonpolar nature of CH4 molecule.

See the polarity of other molecules to make your concepts clear:
Is H2O (Water) Polar or Nonpolar?
Is SO2 Polar or Nonpolar?
Is CS2 Polar or Nonpolar?
Is Hydrogen Chloride (HCl) Polar or Nonpolar?
Is BF3 Polar or Nonpolar? 


Jay is an educator and has helped more than 100,000 students in their studies by providing simple and easy explanations on different science-related topics. With a desire to make learning accessible for everyone, he founded Knords Learning, an online learning platform that provides students with easily understandable explanations.

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