Problem: Stabilization of an emulsion of oil in water by stearate ions.Which kind of intermolecular force attracts the stearate ion to the oil drop?

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We’re being asked to identify the intermolecular forces present in each compound. Recall that there are several types of intermolecular forces:

1. Ion-dipole interaction – occurs between an ion and a polar covalent compound

2. Hydrogen bonding – occurs in compounds where hydrogen is directly connected to an electronegative element such as N, O, or F

3. Dipole-dipole interaction – occurs between two polar covalent compounds

4. Induced-dipole interaction – occurs when a nonpolar compound interacts with a polar compound

5. Dispersion forces – occurs in all compounds. This is the primary intermolecular force exhibited by nonpolar compounds.


We need to determine what kind of intermolecular forces are present in an oil droplet and the stearate ion.

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Problem Details

A diagram shows a round oil droplet ion in water. The oil droplet is composed of a ring of stearate ions that consist of a long hydrophobic end (a hydrocarbon chain) and a hydrophilic end (COO-). The stearate ions are arranged in the oil droplet so that the COO- ends face water and the hydrophobic ends are inside the droplet, away from water. Na+ is attracted to the COO- ends of the oil droplet.
Stabilization of an emulsion of oil in water by stearate ions.

Which kind of intermolecular force attracts the stearate ion to the oil drop?