Chemical Bond - Summary: Electrons in Chemical Bonds

Summary: Electrons in Chemical Bonds

In the (unrealistic) limit of "pure" ionic bonding, electrons are perfectly localized on one of the two atoms in the bond. Such bonds can be understood by classical physics. The forces between the atoms are characterized by isotropic continuum electrostatic potentials. Their magnitude is in simple proportion to the charge difference.

Covalent bonds are better understood by valence bond theory or molecular orbital theory. The properties of the atoms involved can be understood using concepts such as oxidation number. The electron density within a bond is not assigned to individual atoms, but is instead delocalized between atoms. In valence bond theory, the two electrons on the two atoms are coupled together with the bond strength depending on the overlap between them. In molecular orbital theory, the linear combination of atomic orbitals (LCAO) helps describe the delocalized molecular orbital structures and energies based on the atomic orbitals of the atoms they came from. Unlike pure ionic bonds, covalent bonds may have directed anisotropic properties. These may have their own names, such as sigma bond and pi bond.

In the general case, atoms form bonds that are intermediates between ionic and covalent, depending on the relative electronegativity of the atoms involved. This type of bond is sometimes called polar covalent.

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