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Pair of equal and opposite electric charges, the centres of which do not coincide. An atom in which the centre of the negative cloud of electrons has been shifted slightly away from the nucleus by an external electric field is an induced electric dipole. When the external field is removed, the atom loses its dipolarity. A water molecule, in which two hydrogen atoms are situated to one side of an oxygen atom, is a permanent electric dipole. The oxygen side is always slightly negative, the hydrogen side slightly positive.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on electric dipole, visit Britannica.com.
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