What is a Nonelectrolyte?

Nonelectrolytes can be defined as substances that do not have any distinct ionic form to exist in when they are dissolved in an aqueous solution. Such substances are usually poor conductors of electricity due to the fact that they do not readily dissociate into ions in their melt state or in their dissolved state. It is not uncommon for solutions of nonelectrolytes to be insulators of electric currents.

Nonelectrolytes can be alternately defined as substances that do not dissociate into ions when placed in solutions. On the other side of the spectrum, electrolytes are the substances that do dissociate into ions when dissolved in solutions or aqueous media. The presence of free ions in such solutions make them great conductors of electricity.

Examples of Nonelectrolytes

Nonelectrolytes are the chemical compounds that, when placed in solution, don’t ionize at all. As a result, nonelectrolyte-containing solutions do not conduct any electricity. Nonelectrolytes are usually held together by covalent bonds rather than ionic ones. Glucose, a sugar with the chemical formula C6H12O6, is a typical example of a nonelectrolyte. Glucose (commonly known as sugar) dissolves readily in water, but because it does not dissociate inside the solution into ions, it is considered a nonelectrolyte. Therefore, glucose-containing solutions are not conductors of electricity.

Another important example of a nonelectrolyte is ethyl alcohol (also known as ethanol). This organic compound does not dissociate into any ions when dissolved in water.

How can Electrolytes be Distinguished from Nonelectrolytes?

  • Typically, chemical compounds that behave as electrolytes are held together primarily by ionic bonds. When these compounds interact with water or other polar solvents, the ionic bonds that hold these molecules break apart and they dissociate into the individual cations and anions. All ionic salts are known to behave as electrolytes.
  • On the other hand, nonelectrolytes are typically held together by covalent bonds which do not break apart when the compound is introduced to a polar solvent. Therefore, the molecules of nonelectrolytes are typically nonpolar in nature.

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Frequently Asked Questions on Nonelectrolyte

Is sodium chloride a nonelectrolyte?

Sodium chloride is an ionic compound that is made up of the sodium cation and the chloride anion. When dissolved in water or some other polar solvent, this compound is known to dissociate into the Na+ and the Cl- ions. Therefore, sodium chloride is not a nonelectrolyte (it is an electrolyte).

Is pure water considered to be an electrolyte?

Water is known by some sources to be a weak electrolyte since it partially dissociates into H+ and OH – ions. However, this compound is believed to be a nonelectrolyte as per other other sources, because only a very small amount of water dissociates into ions.

Is ammonia a nonelectrolyte?

Ammonia, a chemical compound whose chemical formula is given by NH3, is considered to be a weak electrolyte by many sources. This compound is classified as a weak electrolyte because it forms ions when dissolved in solution. Ammonia accomplishes this by reacting with the water molecules in order to form the ammonium ion (usually denoted by NH4+) and the hydroxide ion (usually denoted by OH-).

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