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What are Van der Waals interactions?

  1. Sep 9, 2010 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    So basically I'm sort of unclear as to what van der walls interactions are and how they occur...like I know that they're a type of noncovalent bond that occurs between identical groups in two molecules.
    Like, how do the partial charges appear? (e.g. lets say there are 2 hydrogen groups, i thought that they both have partial positive charges, how does one get induced with a partial negative charge...? Something to do with their orientation at a certain time?

    2. Relevant equations

    3. The attempt at a solution
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 9, 2010 #2
    "Van der waals" interactions apply to a wide range of phenomenon, essentially all molecular scale forces that aren't covalent or ionic bonds.
    The most common example--London forces--are due to quantum mechanical effects. Even if an atom is neutral in a molecule, or has a certain partial-charge, due to statistics and quantum mechanics it will occasionally change its charge distribution so as to create a small field that is attracted or repelled by neighboring atoms.

    Its only a steady-state phenomenon when you consider a large ensemble of particles. If you have (e.g.) a mole of noble gas X, at any given time a large number of molecules will have an 'instantaneous' dipole, and interact with neighboring molecules. Overall this looks like a constant net interaction in the gas.
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