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Class 10 Chemistry (India)

Single and multiple covalent bonds

Octet rule – Matter always wants to be in the most stable form. For any atom, stability is achieved by following the octet rule, which is to say all atoms (with a few exceptions) want 8 electrons in their outermost electron shell (just like noble gases). The electrons present in the outermost shell of an atom are called valence electrons.

Exceptions to the octet rule include hydrogen (H) and helium (He) that follow the duet rule instead. They are the first two elements of the periodic table and have a single electron shell which accommodates only 2 electrons. Other exceptions include some group 3 elements like boron (B) that contain three valence electrons. Theoretically, boron can accommodate five more electrons according to the octet rule, but boron is a very small atom and five non-metal atoms (like hydrogen) cannot pack around the boron nucleus. Thus, boron commonly forms three bonds, BH, with a total of six electrons in the outermost shell. This also results in some anomalous properties for boron compounds because they are kind of “short of electrons”. It should be thus noted that covalent bonding between non-metals can occur to form compounds with less than an octet on each atom.

BH3 atom

In general, achieving the octet configuration (i.e. 8 electrons in the outermost shell) is the driving force for chemical bonding between atoms. Take a look at the outer shell configuration (i.e. number of valence electrons) of three atoms – sodium (Na), chlorine (Cl) and neon (Ne):

Outer shell configuration diagrams of sodium (Na), chlorine (Cl) and neon (Ne)

Ionic and covalent bonds

Let’s look at the following two scenarios A and B. There are two kids, Emily and Sarah. They both are very good friends.

Scenario A:

Scenario A relationship diagram

Scenario B:

Scenario B relationship diagram

Now let’s apply the above analogy to chemical bonding. Assume that Emily and Sarah represent two atoms, and the blanket symbolizes their valence electrons. In scenario A, atom Emily is willing to donate her electrons (blanket) to atom Sarah because by doing so both achieve an octet configuration of 8 electrons in their respective outer shells, making them both happy and stable. This donation of electrons is called ionic bonding.

Example of an ionic bond

Example of an ionic bond

In scenario B, both the atoms Emily and Sarah are equally electronegative. So, neither Emily nor Sarah is ready to part with her electrons (blanket), and they instead share their valence electrons with each other. This is called a covalent bond. Electronegativity is a measure of how strongly an atom attracts electrons from another atom in a chemical bond and this value is governed by where the particular atom is located in the periodic table (francium is the least electronegative element while fluorine is the most electronegative).

Example of a covalent bond

Example of a covalent bond

Single and Multiple Covalent Bonds

The number of pairs of electrons shared between two atoms determines the type of the covalent bond formed between them.

Number of electron pairs shared Type of covalent bond formed
1 Single
2 Double
3 Triple

Now let’s move on to a couple of examples and try to determine the type of covalent bonds formed

Diagram of single covalent bond being formed

Nitrogen atom can attain an octet configuration by sharing three electrons with another nitrogen atom, forming a triple bond (three pairs of electrons shared)

Diagram of nitrogen bonding into octet configuration

Consider the molecule carbon dioxide (CO). Let’s determine the type of covalent bonds it forms.

Diagram of two double covalent bond being formed

Want to join the conversation?

  • Why the number of bonds is limited only to three?? Why can’t an atom have 4 bonds?(4 votes)
    • Its Too Weak. Two Bonds Are Weaker Than One, Three Bonds Are Weaker Than Two, Four Bonds Are Too Weak To Exist(9 votes)
  • Why does the sodium atom need to get rid of the one electron? Doesn’t it need 7 more electrons to obtain the octet configuration?(1 vote)
    • i think taking of 7 electrons will require more energy than giving away an electron !(7 votes)
  • If any element can have covalent bonds what about atoms of elements with atomic number more than 50 or even 100, can they also form covalent bonds? what will their electronic configuration be if atomic numbers are so huge?(2 votes)
    • When it comes to covalent bonding, we only take the valence electrons into account. So even in an element with an atomic number of fifty or a hundred, there will only be 1-8 valence electrons. For example, tin (50 electrons) has only 4 valence electrons and fermium (100 electrons) only has 2 valence electrons. Hope this helped.(4 votes)
  • what is the main difference between ionic bonds and covalent bonds (5)
    how would you answer this question in 5 marks(1 vote)
    • Ionic Bonds:
      1) Are formed by gaining or losing of electrons between atoms.
      2)Produces ions
      3)Ionic compounds conduct electricity in molten and liquid form
      Covalent Bonds:
      1) Formed by sharing of electrons between atoms.
      2)Does not produce ions.
      3)Covalent compounds do not conduct electricity it any state.(1 vote)
  • Boron is in 13 group not in 3(1 vote)

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