Is NO2 Polar or Nonpolar? (And Why?)

Is NO2 Polar or Nonpolar

NO2 is a POLAR molecule.

But why? 

And how can you say that NO2 is a polar molecule?

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

NO2 is a POLAR molecule because it has one unpaired electron on the Nitrogen atom (N) which causes the entire molecule to bend.
This bending of NO2 molecule results in asymmetric geometry, which makes the molecule polar.

Let me explain this in detail with the help of NO2 lewis structure and its 3D geometry.

Why is NO2 a Polar molecule? (Explained in 2 Steps)

To understand the polar nature of NO2 molecule, first of all you should know its lewis structure as well as its molecular geometry.

So let’s see this in the steps below.

Step #1: Draw the lewis structure

Here is a skeleton of NO2 lewis structure and it contains one N-O bond and one N=O bond.

Is NO2 Polar or Nonpolar

(Note: If you want to know the steps of drawing the NO2 lewis dot structure, then visit this article: NO2 lewis structure, Or you can also watch this short 2 minute video).

So from the above diagram we have come to know that the NO2 molecule has one N-O and one N=O bond.

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

And we also have to check the molecular geometry of NO2.

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] [5]

Now let’s come to the example of NO2 molecule. It has Nitrogen-Oxygen bonds.

You can see the electronegativity values of Nitrogen (N) and Oxygen (O) atoms from the periodic table given below.

From the above image;

  • Electronegativity of Nitrogen (N) = 3.04 [6]
  • Electronegativity of Oxygen (O) = 3.44 [7]

Now let’s see the polarity of each bond.

For Nitrogen-Oxygen bonds;
The electronegativity difference (ΔEN) = 3.44 – 3.04 = 0.4
Now this value is exactly between the range of polar and nonpolar bonds, so we cannot perfectly say whether the Nitrogen-Oxygen bonds are polar or nonpolar.
In some textbooks, you may find some different range of ΔEN, but if we consider the above mentioned range for ΔEN, then we can say that the Nitrogen-Oxygen bonds can be either highly nonpolar or very less polar.

But let’s keep this discussion aside.

Because we also have to look at the molecular geometry of NO2 to know whether it has a symmetric shape or not.

Have a look at this 3D structure of NO2. The Nitrogen atom (N) is at the center and it is surrounded by 2 Oxygen atoms (O).

It also has one unpaired electron on the Nitrogen atom (N).

Is NO2 Polar or Nonpolar

Due to the unpaired electron on the nitrogen atom (N), its molecular geometry becomes asymmetric.

Because of this, there are positive and negative poles of charges on the overall molecule of NO2.

Hence, the NO2 molecule is a polar molecule.

I hope you have understood the reason behind the polar nature of NO2 molecule.

See the polarity of other molecules to make your concepts clear:
Is BH3 Polar or Nonpolar?
Is CO Polar or Nonpolar?
Is CH3F Polar or Nonpolar?
Is NOCl Polar or Nonpolar?
Is BrF5 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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