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Intermolecular forces (IMFs) are the forces which mediate interaction between molecules. They also include forces of attraction or repulsion which act between molecules and other types of neighboring particles (e.g., atoms or ions). They are weak compared to the intramolecular forces – the forces which keep a molecule together. For example, the covalent bond, involving the sharing of electron pairs between atoms, is much stronger than the forces present between neighboring molecules. Both sets of forces are essential parts of force fields frequently used in molecular mechanics.
The investigation of intermolecular forces starts from macroscopic observations which point out the existence and action of forces at a molecular level. These observations include non-ideal-gas thermodynamic behavior reflected by virial coefficients, vapor pressure, viscosity, superficial tension, and absorption data.
The first reference to the nature of microscopic forces is found in Alexis Clairaut's work Theorie de la Figure de la Terre. Other scientists who have contributed to the investigation of microscopic forces include: Laplace, Gauss, Maxwell and Boltzmann.
Attractive intermolecular forces are considered by the following types:
Information on intermolecular force is obtained by macroscopic measurements of properties like viscosity, PVT data. The link to microscopic aspects is given by virial coefficients and Lennard-Jones potentials.
Dipole-dipole interactions are electrostatic interactions between permanent dipoles in molecules. These interactions tend to align the molecules to increase attraction (reducing potential energy). An example of a dipole-dipole interaction can be seen in hydrogen chloride (HCl): the positive end of a polar molecule will attract the negative end of the other molecule and influence its position. Polar molecules have a net attraction between them. Examples of polar molecules include hydrogen chloride (HCl) and chloroform (CHCl3).
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