Question

What are polar protic and polar aprotic solvents?

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Answer

Polar and Protic vs. Aprotic Solvents

Polar Solvent

A polar solvent is characterized by a non-zero net dipole moment. This net dipole moment arises due to the presence of partial charges, which occur when two elements with different electronegativities form a covalent bond.

Protic Solvent

A protic solvent is any solvent that contains a labile H+ (a hydrogen ion that can be easily donated). Typically, these solvents include hydroxyl or amine groups. These solvents readily donate protons to reagents.

Polar Protic Solvent

Combining the definitions, a polar protic solvent is one that not only has a net dipole moment but also has the capability of releasing H+ ions.

Examples include:

  • Water

  • Acetic acid

  • Methanol

Note: Every protic solvent is a polar solvent, but not every polar solvent is a protic solvent.

Polar Aprotic Solvent

A polar aprotic solvent consists of polar molecules but does not contain labile H+ ions. These solvents do not have acidic hydrogens and are particularly useful in discussing reaction mechanisms.

Examples include:

  • Dichloromethane (DCM)

  • Tetrahydrofuran (THF)

  • Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO)

  • Acetone


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