Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Measuring Dipole Moments
Name: Andrew T.
Status: educator
Age: 30s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 5/24/2004

How do you measure the dipole moment of a new (solid)compound? Is there an instrument that measures it directly (a diople meter?) If so, were are these commercially available? Or do you have to determine several properties (such as density, with a pycnometer) and dielectric constant, and then use an equation - if so, are there simplifying assumptions that you make? Are there other properties that need to be measured?

A dipole moment (I am assuming you mean a "permanent electric" dipole moment (vs. an induced dipole moment and electric vs. magnetic) is a property of a gas or a molecule in solution. In the case of a gas it can be measured by several methods. The most accurate is the Stark effect the shift of rotational energy levels caused by an electric field. The deflection of a molecular beam of a molecules by an electric and/or inhomogeneous magnetic field can also be used. In solution the dipole moment is related to the dielectric constant of the molecule in solution. Solids do not usually have a permanent asymmetry in electrical charge, although a few solids (usually high molecular weight "cigar-shaped" ones) can. The measurement of permanent electric dipole moments can get rather messy mathematically. I suggest a Google search for resources. You can find most any level of complexity (messy-ness) you desire.

Vince Calder

Click here to return to the Chemistry Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory