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Nonpolar Covalent Bonds


The molecule methane has four Carbon-Hydrogen single covalent bonds. These covalent
bonds are called nonpolar covalent bonds because

the electrons shared by the adjacent atoms in the bonds are shared equally
The consequence of this equal sharing of electrons is that there is no charge
separation (dipole moment). Compare this to polar covalent bonds.
Since there is no charge separation in the covalent bonds this molecule cannot
enter into a charge interaction with water and will therefore be hydrophobic.

Polar Covalent Bond

The chemical bond can be defined as the interaction between two elements which helps them close to each
other. Elements involve in the formation of chemical bonds with the help of their valence electrons. There
are mainly two types of chemical bonds; Ionic and covalent. Ionic bonds are formed between two oppositely
charged ions by the complete transfer of electrons. When an atom loses its electrons to form cation, it
acquires a positive charge.

Similarly, an anion is formed by accepting electron and has a negative charge. The electrostatic force of
attraction between cation and anion is known as electrovalent interaction or Ionic bond. For example the
bond between sodium ion and chloride ion leads to the formation of sodium chloride that is an ionic

The covalent bond is formed by the complete transfer of valence electrons between bonded atoms. Such
type of bond is formed by the equal sharing of electrons between two bonded atoms. These atoms have
equal contribution in the formation of covalent bond. On the basis of the number of bonds; covalent bond
can be classified as single, double and triple covalent bond. A single covalent bond is formed by one sigma
bond; double bond is formed by one sigma and one pi whereas triple bond is formed by one sigma and two
pi bonds. On the basis of polarity of covalent bond, it can be classified as polar and non-polar covalent
bonds. Lets discuss the polar covalent bond with a few examples.

Polar Covalent Bonding Definition

When two atoms of the same element involves in a covalent bond to form a molecule, the shared pair of
electrons will be at the exact midway between the two atoms. This means the electrons are equally shared by
the atoms. The resulting molecule will be neutral electrically in all respects.

Such a covalent bond is called as a non-polar covalent bond. The examples of non polar covalent bonds are the
molecules of H2, O2, Cl2 etc.

O: + :O O::O or O=O

1. Polar covalent bond can be defined as the bond which is primarily a covalent bond but shows a degree of
polarity. This partial polarity of the molecule is attributed to the covalent bond formed between two different
2. In such cases the bonded pair of electrons tend to be more towards the atom which has more negativity or
an affinity to attract the electron pair more towards it than the other.
3. This results in that atom to attain a partial negative charge and the other an equivalent positive charge.
4. For example the bond between Hydrogen and Chlorine to form the hydrogen chloride gas is covalent. But
the difference in the electronegativities between the two makes the molecule polar.

Polar Covalent Bond

Let us take the example of hydrogen chloride (HCl) molecule. The bonding of hydrogen and chlorine atoms leans
more towards Cl atom.

This is because Cl is more electronegative in nature than the hydrogen. Thus the shared pair of electrons lie
not exactly in between the bond but lean towards chlorine.
This causes the Cl atom to acquire a slight negative charge, and H atom a slight positive charge.
This will make the covalent bond between H and Cl to possess an appreciable ionic character.

H + Cl::: H Cl:::
Polar Covalent Bond Examples
Some of the polar covalent bonded compounds are Hydrogen chloride HCl. The electronegativity of hydrogen is 1
and the electronegativity of chlorine is 3. This makes the bond a polar covalent.

H+Cl -

Ionic Bonds
Ionic bonding is the complete transfer of valence electron(s) between atoms and is a type of chemical
bond that generates two oppositely charged ions. It is observed because metals with few electrons in its
outer-most orbital. By losing those electrons, these metals can achieve noble-gas configuration and satisfy
the octet rule. Similarly, nonmetals that have close to 8 electrons in its valence shell tend to readily accept
electrons to achieve its noble gas configuration.
In ionic bonding, electrons are transferred from one atom to another resulting in the formation of positive
and negative ions. The electrostatic attractions between the positive and negative ions hold the compound
together. The predicted overall energy of the ionic bonding process, which includes the ionization
energy of the metal and electron affinity of the nonmetal, is usually positive, indicating that the reaction is
endothermic and unfavorable. However, this reaction is highly favorable because of their electrostatic
attraction. At the most ideal inter-atomic distance, attraction between these particles releases enough
energy to facilitate the reaction. Most ionic compounds tend to dissociate in polar solvents because they
are often polar. This phenomenon is due to the opposite charges on each ions.

At a simple level, a lot of importance is attached to the electronic structures of noble gases like neon or
argon which have eight electrons in their outer energy levels (or two in the case of helium). These noble
gas structures are thought of as being in some way a "desirable" thing for an atom to have. One may well
have been left with the strong impression that when other atoms react, they try to organize things such
that their outer levels are either completely full or completely empty.

Example: Bonding in NaCl

Sodium Chloride:

Sodium (2,8,1) has 1 electron more than a stable noble gas structure (2,8). If it gave away that
electron it would become more stable.
Chlorine (2,8,7) has 1 electron short of a stable noble gas structure (2,8,8). If it could gain an
electron from somewhere it too would become more stable.

The answer is obvious. If a sodium atom gives an electron to a chlorine atom, both become more stable.

The sodium has lost an electron, so it no longer has equal numbers of electrons and protons. Because it
has one more proton than electron, it has a charge of 1+. If electrons are lost from an atom, positive ions
are formed. Positive ions are sometimes called cations.

The chlorine has gained an electron, so it now has one more electron than proton. It therefore has a charge
of 1-. If electrons are gained by an atom, negative ions are formed. A negative ion is sometimes called
an anion.
Sigma & Pi Bonding
What are Sigma and Pi bonds?
Many of us are already aware of the definition of a sigma bond from our teachers, text books or from
many of the websites online. However, if you are still not aware of what these two bonds are, then
here is a basic definition of the two:
Sigma bond: A covalent bond resulting from the formation of a molecular orbital by the end-to-end
overlap of atomic orbitals, denoted by the symbol .
Now have a look at this illustration to see how this end-to-end overlapping occures:

Fig 1: Formation of a Sigma bond

Misconception: many students in the Pacific may have this worng notion that a sigma

Pi bond: A covalent bond resulting from the formation of a molecular orbital by side-to-side
overlap of atomic orbitals along a plane perpendicular to a line connecting the nuclei of the atoms,
denoted by the symbol .
Here's another illustration showing how the side-to-side overlapping occurs:
Fig 2: Formation of a Pi bond
It is important to note that different sources use different terms to define what a sigma and pi bond is.
However, once examined carefully, it will be evident that they all try to explain the same thing.

Note: A single bond such as (C-H) has one sigma bond whereas a double (C=C) and triple (CC)
bond has one sigma bond with remaining being pi bonds.
Bond type No. of No. of
bond bonds
Single (C-H) 1 0

Double 1 1
Triple (CC) 1 2

Sigma () Bonding:
To understand Sigma bonding let us look at the simple molecule of methane (CH4).
Methane, CH4
We may all be familiar with drawing methane using electron dot diagrams, which would look
something like this:

Fig 3: Covalent bonding in Methane

For now, let us ignore the Hydrogen and concentrate on the central Carbon atom. We know that it is

the valence electrons that are responsible for covalent bonding and we must know the electron
configuration of an element from the periodic table to know how many valence electron it has.

Please click here to learn more about Electron Configuration if you are unfamiliar with the concept.

Now, when we look at the carbon atom from our Methane, we see that its electron configuration is 1s 2
electron configuration we can see that carbon has only two unpaired electrons (2p2) in its valence shel
bonds with two hydrogen atoms. You can see this more clearly in the electrons-in-boxes notation below

Fig 3: Energy diagram for Carbon

So why is methane written as CH4 and not CH2? Well the answer to this lies in something know as hyb

Forming the bonds

Now that we have hybridized the s and p orbitals of carbon to form four identical sp 3 hybrid orbitals, it is
Hydrogens that we ignored earlier. It is easy to see that the the four Hydrogens that will bond with the
orbital with a single unpaired electron in each. This makes it very easy for it to bond with the carbon.

Fig 4: Sigma bonding in Methane. Source

At this point it is important that we notice how the 1s orbital of each of the four hydrogen comes together with the sp3 or
two types of orbitals overlap in an end-to-end manner and form four single bonds which are referred to as sigma bonds g
Now remember the energy that the carbon atom gained to promote one of its electrons from the 2s to the 2pz orbital dur
carbon bonds with the hydrogens to form the CH4 molecule, it loses far more energy compared to this gain which eventua
stable and this is what is would look like:
Fig 5: 3D animation of methane molecule. Source: website

Ethane, C2H6

Now lets try to recap what we have learnt using the ethane C 2H6 molecule.

1. First we isolate the two Carbons and get their electron configuration which is 1s2 2s2 2p2
2. Since the electron configuration shows only two unpaired electrons available for bonding and we know that each
bonds with hydrogen and 1 with the other carbon in this case), it is obvious that hybridization is needed to make
for this bonding.
3. Hybridization results in four sp3 hybrid orbitals
4. Now three of these sp3 hybrid orbitals form sigma bonds by overlapping with three 1s orbitals of the three hydrog
orbital forms a sigma bond by overlapping with the sp3 hybrid orbital of the other carbon which also has three Hy
5. When all these sigma bonds have formed, we get a molecule with a total of 7 sigma bonds. Have a look at the illu
together to form the bond and eventually the ethane molecule:

Fig 6: Sigma & Pi b

textbook home page

pi () bonds

To understand pi bonding lets have a look at the simple molecule of Ethene C 2H4.

You may have drawn the ethane molecule many times in your classrooms and we are all aware of how
drawn to represent this molecule. Usually is would look something like this:

Fig 7: Structure of Ethene

In the case of Ethene, there is a difference from methane or ethane, because each carbon is only joining to three other a
carbon atoms hybridise their outer orbitals before forming bonds, this time they only hybridise three of the orbitals rathe
electron and two of the 2p electrons, but leave the other 2p electron unchanged.

Fig 8: sp2 hybridisation

The new orbitals formed are called sp2 hybrids, because they are made by an s orbital and two p orbitals which have reor
look much like sp3 orbitals that you have already come across in the bonding in methane. The three sp2 hybrid orbitals arr
possible, which is at 120 relative to each other in a plane and remaining p orbital is at right angles to them.

The two carbon atoms and four hydrogen atoms would look like this before they joined together:

Fig 9: 1s and sp2 hybrid orbitals

The various atomic orbitals which are pointing towards each other now merge to give molecular orbitals, each containing
are sigma bonds - just like those formed by end-to-end overlap of atomic orbitals that we saw in methane and ethane

The p orbitals on each carbon aren't pointing towards each other, are overlapping sideways.

This sideways overlap also creates a molecular orbital, but of a different kind. In this one the electrons aren't
two nuclei, but above and below the plane of the molecule. A bond formed in this way is called a pi bond. Lo
notice how the orbitals have arranged themselves to form the pi bonds:
Fig 10: Sigma and pi bonding in