General Chemistry/Overview of bonding

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Introduction to Bonding[edit]

Put simply, chemical bonds join atoms together to form more complex structures (like molecules or crystals). Bonds can form between atoms of the same element, or between atoms of different elements. There are several types of chemical bonds which have different properties and give rise to different structures.

In general, atoms try to react to form valence shells containing eight electrons. The octet rule describes this.

  • Ionic bonds form between positive ions (cations) and negative ions (anions). In an ionic solid, the ions arrange themselves into a rigid crystal lattice. NaCl (common salt) is an example of an ionic substance. When ionic bonds form, there is an attractive force established between the positive cation and the negative anion. This attraction between oppositely-charged ions is the ionic bond.
  • Covalent bonds are formed when the orbitals of two non-metal atoms physically overlap and share electrons with each other. There are two types of structures to which this can give rise: molecules and covalent network solids. Methane (CH4) and water (H2O) are examples of covalently bonded molecules, and glass is a covalent network solid.
  • Metallic bonds occur between metal atoms. In a metallically bonded substance, the atoms' outer electrons are able to freely move around - they are delocalised to form an 'electron pool'. Iron is a metallically bonded substance.

Chemical bonding is one of the most crucial concepts in the study of chemistry. In fact, the properties of materials are basically defined by the type and number of atoms they contain and how they are bonded together.

So far, you have seen examples of intramolecular bonds. These bonds connect atoms into molecules. There are also intermolecular bonds that connect molecules into large substances. Sometimes, there is no difference between intramolecular and intermolecular bonds. In the case of ionic crystals (like salt) or covalent networks (like diamond), the same bonding forces connect all of the atoms together. In the case of metallic bonding, the atoms are all interconnected into one large piece of metal.

On the other hand, there may be intermolecular bonds different from those that join atoms into molecules. Intermolecular bonds hold individual molecules of water into a puddle, and they are broken when the water boils into a gas.