Polarity

Many of water's biological functions stem from its chemical structure. Recall that in the water molecule, H2O, the hydrogen and oxygen atoms share electrons to form covalent bonds. However, these atoms do not share the electrons equally. The oxygen atom has a greater ability to attract electrons to it because it pulls hydrogen's electrons towards its nucleus. As a result, as shown in Figure 2-8, the region of the molecule where the oxygen atom is located has a partial negative charge, denoted with a 8", while the regions of the molecule where each of the two hydrogen atoms are located have partial positive charges, each of which are denoted with a 8+. Thus, even though the total charge on a water molecule is neutral, the charge is unevenly distributed across the water molecule. Because of this uneven distribution of charge, water is called a polar compound.

Notice also in Figure 2-8 that the three atoms in a water molecule are not arranged in a straight line as you might expect. Rather, the two hydrogen atoms bond with the single oxygen atom at an angle.

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