This is the electrostatic potential for ozone.

Electrostatic potential map of ozone

This is the electrostatic potential for sulfur dioxide.

(Click to enlarge)

They look almost exactly the same except one is all oxygen atoms and the other has sulfur in the center instead of oxygen.

Why does ozone have an MEP (molecular electrostatic potential) similar to that of SO2?

  • $\begingroup$ Because their outer orbitals are very similar. The bonding nature in these to molecules is exactly the same with slightly more electronic structure moved from central atom in $\ce{SO2}$. $\endgroup$
    – permeakra
    Aug 9, 2014 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ yeah but 1 is polar(the sulfur dioxide) and the other is nonpolar with a positive charge(the ozone). I would expect that the positive charge of ozone would make the central oxygen pull harder in the bond(because of the positive charge it has) and thus the electrons spend less time around the terminal oxygens thus making the MEP more like the one of H2O $\endgroup$
    – Caters
    Aug 9, 2014 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ Ozone is non-polar? You might want to rethink that. $\endgroup$
    – Dissenter
    Aug 9, 2014 at 20:50
  • $\begingroup$ there is 0 dipole moment because all atoms in ozone have the same electronegativity. 0 dipole moment means nonpolar. However it is an ion to some degree because of the positively charged oxygen in the center. $\endgroup$
    – Caters
    Aug 9, 2014 at 20:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @caters Ozone has dipole moment of ~ 0.5 D. It is three times smaller than for sulfur dioxide, but still high enough. And I repeat, both have roughly same electron structure. $\endgroup$
    – permeakra
    Aug 9, 2014 at 21:22

1 Answer 1


Resonance structures of $\ce{SO2}$ and $\ce{O3}$.


As you can see from the diagram $\ce{O3}$ and $\ce{SO2}$ are isoelectric and have the same shape and this accounts for their very similar electrostatic potential maps. Both molecules are polar although $\ce{SO2}$, with a dipole moment of 1.62D, is more polar than $\ce{O3}$ (0.53D). As the diagram shows, the polarity of both molecules is due to the their trigonal planar shape with a formal positive charge on the central atom.


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