Problem: Butane and 2-methylpropane, whose space-filling models are shown, are both nonpolar and have the same molecular formula, yet butane has the higher boiling point (-0.5 oC compared to -11.7 oC).Explain.

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We are being asked to explain the higher boiling point of butane than 2-methylpropane


Compounds with strong intermolecular forces have high boiling points. This is because they require more energy to be able to break the bonds during the phase transition.


Butane and 2-methypropane are both nonpolar and have the same molecular formula


Recall that when comparing molecules with the same IMF:

 smaller molecular weight (smaller molecule)  smaller area of interaction  weaker IMF

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Problem Details

Butane and 2-methylpropane, whose space-filling models are shown, are both nonpolar and have the same molecular formula, yet butane has the higher boiling point (-0.5 oC compared to -11.7 oC).
Space filling models of butane and 2-methylpropane. Butane is a linear hydrocarbon chain but 2-methylpropane is a branched chain with a CH3 group bonded above the central C in the main chain.

Explain.

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