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Chemical Bonding

Background Essay
Atoms can join together with chemical bonds to form molecules. Molecules
composed of two or more different elements are known as compounds. Properties of
the resulting compound, such as melting point and electrical conductivity, depend
on the attractive forces between the atoms and the resulting bonds that form.
According to the modern atomic model, electrons orbit the nucleus at specific
energy levels, or shells. Electrons in the outermost shell, known as valence
electrons, are involved in chemical bonding. Atoms are more stable when their outer
shell is filled; they therefore tend to lose, gain, or share electrons to complete their
outer shells. Three common types of chemical bondscovalent, ionic, and metallic
result from the way in which valence electrons shift to fill the outer shells.
A single atom is held together by the attraction between the protons in the
nucleus and the orbiting electrons. When two atoms approach each other, each
nucleus also attracts the other atom's electrons. In a covalent bond, both atoms
"fight for" the other atom's electrons, though neither one succeeds. Forces hold the
atoms in a position where they are effectively stuck together and bonded through
their shared valence electrons.
In an ionic bond, electrons transfer from one atom to another. Some elements
have outer shells that are almost empty; these elements tend to lose their
electrons. Other elements have outer shells that are mostly full; these elements
tend to hold on to their electrons and attract electrons from other atoms. When an
atom gains electrons, a negatively charged atoma negative ionis created.
Conversely, when an atom loses electrons, a positive ion is created. The oppositely
charged ions attract one another, creating an ionic bond.
In a metallic bond, one or more of the outer electrons of the atoms are
"delocalized." In other words, the electrons are free to move around all the atoms
involved, surrounding the atoms with a sea of valence electrons. The strong
attraction between the electron cloud and the positively charged atoms binds the
atoms together, creating a metallic bond.
The physical properties of compounds are related to the nature of their
chemical bonds. For instance, both ionic and metallic compounds tend to have high
melting pointsin the case of ionic bonds this is due to the strong force between
positive and negative ions; with metallic bonds it is because of the strong attraction
between the electron cloud and positively charged atoms. On the other hand,
because the forces between molecules in covalent compounds are relatively weak,
covalent compounds generally have low melting points.