20. The Variety of Organic         Compounds   Previous PageNext Page

The most useful properties of alcohols arise because thay are polar but not ionized.

The electronegative oxygen atom in methanol has a slight excess of negative charge and the less electronegative hydrogen has a small positive charge, which leads to a dipole moment of 1.70 debye (right).

For comparison, the water molecule has a dipole moment of 1.87 D, and methane has zero dipole moment.

This polarity of alcohols means that the smaller ones, at least are soluble in water.

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