Dispersion Forces: Neither Fluctuating Nor Dispersing

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20 Scopus citations


Dispersion forces are ubiquitous in chemistry, yet they are often misunderstood. This article provides background into why they are called dispersion forces and explains how to describe them in terms of time-independent quantum mechanics. The article also describes the breakdown of the multipole series that is often used to describe dispersion forces, and it comments on the representation of dispersion forces in molecular mechanics. In general, the article tries to provide a proper framework for understanding and describing dispersion forces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1671-1675
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 13 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported as part of the Nanoporous Materials Genome Center by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences, under award DE-FG02-17ER16362.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Chemical Society and Division of Chemical Education, Inc.


  • Graduate Education/Research
  • Interdisciplinary/Multidisciplinary
  • Molecular Modeling
  • Noncovalent Interactions
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Quantum Chemistry
  • Upper-Division Undergraduate


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