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Bond Hybridization

Have you ever dormed with a roommate? You each have your own space, but you are a pair sharing a room. This is how electrons form bonds, their "space" (called orbitals) overlap and that bond is their "shared room". These orbitals sometimes need to hybridize (which we will discuss in detail later) so that their electrons are free to form bonds of equal energies. Imagine you were moving into your new apartment to find someone already in your bed or that you and your roommate have keys to completely different floors! This is why hybridization is important in molecules.

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Bond Hybridization

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Have you ever dormed with a roommate? You each have your own space, but you are a pair sharing a room. This is how electrons form bonds, their "space" (called orbitals) overlap and that bond is their "shared room". These orbitals sometimes need to hybridize (which we will discuss in detail later) so that their electrons are free to form bonds of equal energies. Imagine you were moving into your new apartment to find someone already in your bed or that you and your roommate have keys to completely different floors! This is why hybridization is important in molecules.

In this article, we will be discussing bond hybridization and how orbitals hybridize themselves to form different types of bonds.

  • This article covers bond hybridization.
  • First, we will look at the definition of hybridization.
  • Next, we will walk through single-bond hybridization.
  • Then, we will explain why pi-bonds are important in hybridization.
  • Thereafter, we will discuss both double- and triple-bond hybridization.
  • Lastly, we will look at the bond angles in different types of hybridized molecules.

Hybridization Definition

There are two theories that describe how bonds are made and what they look like. The first is valence bond theory. It states that two orbitals, each with one electron, overlap to form a bond. When orbitals directly overlap, that is called a σ-bond and a sideways overlap is a π-bond.

However, this theory doesn't perfectly explain all types of bonds, which is why the hybridization theory was created.

Orbital hybridization is when two orbitals "mix" and now have the same characteristics and energy so that they can bond.

These orbitals can be used to create hybridization pi bonds and sigma bonds. The s-, p-, and d-orbitals can all be mixed to create these hybridized orbitals.

Single-bond hybridization

The first type of hybridization is single-bond hybridization or sp3 hybridization

Sp3 hybridization (single-bond hybridization) involves the "mixing" of 1 s- and 3 p-orbitals into 4 sp3 orbitals. This is done so that 4 single bonds of equal energy can be formed.

So, why is this hybridization necessary? Let's look at CH4 (methane) and see why hybridization is better at explaining the bonding than valence bond theory.

This is what carbon's valence (outermost) electrons look like:

Bond Hybridization unhybridized carbon StudySmarter

Carbon unhybridized has two of its electrons already paired, so it doesn't make sense why it would form 4 bonds. StudySmarter Original

In CH4, carbon makes 4 equal bonds. However, based on the diagram, it doesn't make sense why that is the case. Not only are 2 of the electrons already paired, but these electrons are in a different energy level than the other two. Carbon instead forms 4 sp3 orbitals so that there are 4 electrons ready for bonding at the same energy level.

Bond Hybridization sp3 hybridized carbon StudySmarter

Carbon hybridizes 1 2s and three 2p orbitals to make four sp3 orbitals of the same energy. StudySmarter Original.

Now that the orbitals have been hybridized, carbon can make four σ-bonds with hydrogen. CH4 as well as all sp3 hybridized molecules form the tetrahedral geometry.

Bond Hybridization Single-bond hybridization diagram StudySmarterCarbon's sp3 orbital and hydrogen's s-orbital overlap to form a σ-bond (single-bond). This geometry is called a tetrahedral and resembles a tripod.

Carbon's sp3 orbitals form four equal σ-bonds (single-bonds) by overlapping with each hydrogen's s-orbital. Each overlapping pair contains 2 electrons, one from each orbital.

Hybridization pi bonds

As mentioned previously, there are two types of bonds: σ- and π-bonds. Π-bonds are caused by the sideways overlap of orbitals. When a molecule forms a double-bond, one of the bonds will be a σ-bond, and the other will be a π-bond. For triple-bonds, two will be a π-bond and the other is a σ-bond.

Π-bonds also come in pairs. Since p-orbitals have two "lobes", if the top one is overlapping, the bottom one will too. However, they are still considered one bond.

Bond Hybridization pi-bond orbitals StudySmarter

2 p-orbitals overlap to form a set of π-bonds. StudySmarter Original.

Here we can see how the p-orbitals overlap to form the π-bonds. These bonds are present in both double- and triple-bond hybridization, so it's helpful to understand what they look like by themselves.

Double-bond hybridization

The second type of hybridization is double-bond hybridization or sp2 hybridization.

Sp2 hybridization (double-bond hybridization) involves the "mixing" of 1 s- and 2 p-orbitals into 3 sp2 orbitals. The sp2 hybrid orbitals form 3 equal σ-bonds and the unhybridized p-orbitals forms the π-bond.

Let's look at an example with C2H6 (ethane):Bond Hybridization sp2 hybridized orbital diagram StudySmarterCarbon hybridizes 1 2s orbital and 2 2p orbitals to form 3 sp2 orbitals, leaving one 2p orbital unhybridized. StudySmarter Original

The 2p-orbital is left unhybridized to form the C=C π-bond. Π-bonds can only be formed with orbitals of "p" energy or higher, so it is left untouched. Also, the 2sp2 orbitals are lower in energy than the 2p orbital, since the energy level is an average of the s and p energy levels.

Let's see what these bonds look like:

Bond Hybridization Double-bond hybridization diagram StudySmarter

Carbon's sp2 orbitals overlap with hydrogen's s-orbital and the other carbon's sp2 orbital to form single (σ) bonds. The unhybridized carbon p-orbitals overlap to form the other bond in the carbon-carbon double bond (π-bond).

Like before, the carbon hybridized orbitals (here sp2 orbitals) overlap with hydrogen's s-orbital to form single bonds. The carbon p-orbitals overlap to form the second bond in the carbon-carbon double bond (π-bond). The π-bond is shown as a dotted line since the electrons in the bond are in the p-orbitals, not the sp2 orbitals as shown.

Triple-bond hybridization

Lastly, let's look at triple-bond hybridization (sp-hybridization).

Sp-hybridization (triple-bond hybridization) is the "mixing" of one s- and one p-orbital to form 2 sp-orbitals. The remaining two p-orbitals form the π-bond which are the second and third bonds within the triple bond.

We'll be using C2H2(acetylene or ethyne) as our example:

Bond Hybridization sp hybridized orbital diagram StudySmarter

Carbon hybridizes 1s and 1p orbital to form two sp-orbitals, leaving two 2p orbitals unhybridized.

Carbon forms 2 sp-orbitals from 1 s- and 1 p-orbital. The more s-character an orbital has, the lower in energy it will be, so sp-orbitals have the lowest energy of all the sp-hybridized orbitals.

The two unhybridized p-orbitals will be for π-bond formation.

Let's see this bonding in action!

Bond Hybridization Triple-bond hybridization diagram StudySmarterCarbon's sp-orbitals form a single (σ) bond by overlapping with hydrogen's s-orbitals and the other carbon's sp-orbital. The unhybridized p-orbitals form 1 π-bond each to form the second and third bond in the carbon-carbon triple bond. StudySmarter Original.

As before, carbon's hybridized orbitals overlap with hydrogen's s-orbital and the other carbon's hybridized orbital to form σ-bonds. The unhybridized p-orbitals overlap to form π-bonds (shown by the dotted line).

sp3, sp and sp2 Hybridization and bond angles

Each type of hybridization has its own geometry. Electrons repel each other, so each geometry maximizes the distance between orbitals.

First up are single-bond/sp3 hybridized orbitals, which have the tetrahedral geometry:

Bond Hybridization Tetrahedral sp3 geometry StudySmarterSp3/single-bond hybridized orbitals form the tetrahedral geometry. The bonds are 109.5 degrees apart. StudySmarter Original.

In a tetrahedral, the bond lengths and bond angles are all the same. The bond angle is 109.5°. The bottom three orbitals are all on one plane, with the top orbital sticking upward. The shape is similar to a camera tripod.

Next, double-bond/sp2 hybridized orbitals form the trigonal planar geometry:

Bond Hybridization Trigonal planar sp2 geometry StudySmarterSp2/double-bond hybridized orbitals have the trigonal planar geometry. The bond angle is 120 degrees. StudySmarter Original.

When we label a molecule's geometry, we base it on the center atom's geometry. When there is no main center atom, we label the geometry based on what central atom we choose. Here we consider each carbon to be a center atom, both of these carbons have the trigonal planar geometry.

Trigonal planar geometry is shaped like a triangle, with each element being on the same plane. The bond angle is 120°. In this example, we have two overlapping triangles, with each carbon being at the center of its own triangle. Sp2 hybridized molecules will have two trigonal planar shapes within them, with the elements in the double-bond being their own center.

Lastly, we have triple-bond/sp hybridized orbitals, which form the linear geometry:

Bond Hybridization Linear sp geometry StudySmarterSp/triple-bond hybridized orbitals form the linear geometry. The bond angles are 180 degrees. StudySmarter Original.

Like with the previous example, this geometry is for both elements in the triple-bond. Each carbon has a linear geometry, so it has 180° bond angles between it and what it is bonded to. Linear molecules are, as the name implies, shaped like a straight line.

In summary:

Type of hybridizationType of geometryBond angle
sp3/single-bondTetrahedral109.5°
sp2/double-bondTrigonal planar (for both atoms in a double-bond)120°
sp/triple/bondLinear (for both atoms in a triple-bond)180°

Bond Hybridization - Key takeaways

  • Orbital hybridization is when two orbitals "mix" and now have the same characteristics and energy so that they can bond.
  • When orbitals directly overlap, that is called a σ-bond and a sideways overlap is a π-bond.
  • Sp3 hybridization (single-bond hybridization) involves the "mixing" of 1 s- and 3 p-orbitals into 4 sp3 orbitals. This is done so that 4 single bonds of equal energy can be formed.
  • Sp2 hybridization (double-bond hybridization) involves the "mixing" of 1 s- and 2 p-orbitals into 3 sp2 orbitals. The sp2hybrid orbitals form 3 equal σ-bonds and the unhybridized p-orbitals forms the π-bond.
  • Sp-hybridization (triple-bond hybridization) is the "mixing" of one s- and one p-orbital to form 2 sp-orbitals. The remaining two p-orbitals form the π-bond which are the second and third bonds within the triple bond.
  • Sp3 hybridized molecules have the tetrahedral geometry (109.5° bond angle), while sp2 hybridized molecules have the trigonal planar geometry (120° bond angle), and sp hybridized molecules have the linear geometry (180° bond angle).

Frequently Asked Questions about Bond Hybridization

There are 6 sigma bonds formed. 

Hybrid orbitals are of the same shape and energy, so they can form stronger bonds than other orbital types. 

A hybrid bond is a bond that is made from hybrid orbitals. Hybrid orbitals are created from "mixing" two different types of orbitals, like s- and p-orbitals. 

A) Carbon can form 2 bonds since it only has 2 unpaired electrons in its 2p orbital. 

B) Phosphorus can form 3 bonds since it has 3 unpaired electrons in its 3p orbital.

C) Sulfur can form 2 bonds since it has 2 unpaired electrons in its 3p orbital.

Single, double, and triple bonds can all participate in hybridization. Double bonds participate in sp2 hybridization, while triple bonds participate in sp hybridization. 

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

True or FalseA sigma bond is the first type of covalent bond between atoms and is formed by side to side overlap of p orbitals

Which of the following are important differences between sigma and pi bonds (choose all that apply)? 

If there are 2 pi bonds and 1 sigma in a bond, what type of bond is it? 

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