4.8 Bonding In Some Homonuclear Diatomic Molecules

In this section we shall discuss bonding in some homonuclear diatomic molecules.

Hydrogen molecule (H2 ): It is formed by the combination of two hydrogen atoms. Each hydrogen atom has one electron in 1s Therefore, in all there are two electrons in hydrogen molecule which are present in σ1s molecular orbital. So electronic configuration of hydrogen molecule is

H2 : (σ1s)2

The bond order of H2 molecule can be calculated as given below:

This means that the two hydrogen atoms are bonded together by a single covalent bond. The bond dissociation energy of hydrogen molecule has been found to be 438 kJ mol–1 and bond length equal to 74 pm. Since no unpaired electron is present in hydrogen molecule, therefore, it is diamagnetic.


Helium molecule (He2 ): The electronic configuration of helium atom is 1s2. Each helium atom contains 2 electrons, therefore, in He2 molecule there would be 4 electrons. These electrons will be accommodated in σ1s and σ*1s molecular orbitals leading to electronic configuration:

He2 : (σ1s)2 (σ*1s)2

Bond order of He2 is ½(2 – 2) = 0

He2 molecule is therefore unstable and does not exist.

Similarly, it can be shown that Be 2 molecule (σ1s)2 (σ*1s)2 (σ2s)2 (σ*2s)2 also does not  exist.


Lithium molecule (Li2 ): The electronic configuration of lithium is 1s2, 2s1 . There are six electrons in Li2. The electronic configuration of Li2 molecule, therefore, is

Li2  : (σ1s)2  (σ*1s)2 (σ2s)2

The above configuration is also written as KK(σ2s)2 where KK represents the closed K shell structure (σ1s)2 (σ*1s)2.

From the electronic configuration of Li2 molecule it is clear that there are four electrons present in bonding molecular orbitals and two electrons present in antibonding molecular orbitals. Its bond order, therefore, is ½ (4 – 2)

It means that Li2 molecule is stable and since it has no unpaired electrons it should be diamagnetic. Indeed diamagnetic Li 2 molecules are known to exist in the vapour phase.


Carbon molecule (C2 ): The electronic configuration of carbon is 1s2 2s2 2p2. There are twelve electrons in C2. The electronic configuration of C2 molecule, therefore, is

C 2 : ( σ1s)2 ( σ * 1s )2 ( σ * 2s )2 (π 2 p 2x= π 2p 2y)

The bond order of C2 is ½ (8 – 4) = 2 and C2 should be diamagnetic. Diamagnetic C2 molecules have indeed been detected in vapour phase. It is important to note that double bond in C2 consists of both pi bonds because of the presence of four electrons in two pi molecular orbitals.

In most of the other molecules a double bond is made up of a sigma bond and a pi bond. In a similar fashion the bonding in N2 molecule can be discussed.


Oxygen molecule (O2 ): The electronic configuration of oxygen atom is 1s2 2s2 2p4. Each oxygen atom has 8 electrons, hence, in O2 molecule there are 16 electrons.

From the electronic configuration of O2 molecule it is clear that ten electrons are present in bonding molecular orbitals and six electrons are present in antibonding molecular orbitals. Its bond order, therefore, is

Bond order = 12 [ N b  − N a ] = 12 [10 − 6] = 2

So in oxygen molecule, atoms are held by a double bond. Moreover, it may be noted that it contains two unpaired electrons in π * 2p x and π * 2p y molecular orbitals, therefore, O2 molecule should be paramagnetic, a prediction that corresponds to experimental observation. In this way, the theory successfully explains the paramagnetic nature of oxygen.

Similarly, the electronic configurations of other homonuclear diatomic molecules of the second row of the periodic table can be written. In Fig.4.21 are given the molecular orbital occupancy and molecular properties for B2 through Ne2.

The sequence of MOs and their electron population are shown. The bond energy, bond length, bond order, magnetic properties and valence electron configuration appear below the orbital diagrams.

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