A secondary interatomic bond between adjacent molecular dipoles, which may be permanent or induced.
The van der Waals force (or van der Waals interaction), named after Dutch scientist Johannes Diderik van der Waals, is the sum of the attractive or repulsive forces between molecules (or between parts of the same molecule) other than those due to covalent bonds or to the electrostatic interaction of ions with one another or with neutral molecules. The term includes:
* force between two permanent dipoles (Keesom force)
* force between a permanent dipole and a corresponding induced dipole (Debye force)
* force between two instantaneously induced dipoles (London dispersion force)
It is also sometimes used loosely as a synonym for the totality of intermolecular forces. Van der Waals forces are relatively weak compared to normal chemical bonds, but play a fundamental role in fields as diverse as supramolecular chemistry, structural biology, polymer science, nanotechnology, surface science, and condensed matter physics. Van der Waals forces define the chemical character of many organic compounds. They also define the solubility of organic substances in polar and non-polar media. In low molecular weight alcohols, the properties of the polar hydroxyl group dominate the weak intermolecular forces of van der Waals. In higher molecular weight alcohols, the properties of the nonpolar hydrocarbon chain(s) dominate and define the solubility. Van der Waals-London forces grow with the length of the nonpolar part of the substance.
Van der Waals forces include attractions between atoms, molecules, and surfaces, as well as other intermolecular forces. They differ from covalent and ionic bonding in that they are caused by correlations in the fluctuating polarizations of nearby particles (a consequence of quantum dynamics).
Intermolecular forces have four major contributions:
1. A repulsive component resulting from the Pauli exclusion principle that prevents the collapse of molecules.
2. Attractive or repulsive electrostatic interactions between permanent charges (in the case of molecular ions), dipoles (in the case of molecules without inversion center), quadrupoles (all molecules with symmetry lower than cubic), and in general between permanent multipoles. The electrostatic interaction is sometimes called the Keesom interaction or Keesom force after Willem Hendrik Keesom.
3. Induction (also known as polarization), which is the attractive interaction between a permanent multipole on one molecule with an induced multipole on another. This interaction is sometimes called Debye force after Peter J.W. Debye.
4. Dispersion (usually named after Fritz London), which is the attractive interaction between any pair of molecules, including non-polar atoms, arising from the interactions of instantaneous multipoles.
All intermolecular/van der Waals forces are anisotropic (except those between two noble gas atoms), which means that they depend on the relative orientation of the molecules. The induction and dispersion interactions are always attractive, irrespective of orientation, but the electrostatic interaction changes sign upon rotation of the molecules. That is, the electrostatic force can be attractive or repulsive, depending on the mutual orientation of the molecules. When molecules are in thermal motion, as they are in the gas and liquid phase, the electrostatic force is averaged out to a large extent, because the molecules thermally rotate and thus probe both repulsive and attractive parts of the electrostatic force. Sometimes this effect is expressed by the statement that "random thermal motion around room temperature can usually overcome or disrupt them" (which refers to the electrostatic component of the van der Waals force). Clearly, the thermal averaging effect is much less pronounced for the attractive induction and dispersion forces.
Van der Waals forces are responsible for certain cases of pressure broadening (van der Waals broadening) of spectral lines and the formation of van der Waals molecules. The London-van der Waals forces are related to the Casimir effect for dielectric media, the former being the microscopic description of the latter bulk property.