Writing Lewis Structures with the Octet Rule (OpenStax Chemistry 2e)
For very simple molecules and molecular ions, we can write the Lewis structures by merely pairing up the unpaired electrons on the constituent atoms.
For more complicated molecules and molecular ions, it is helpful to follow the step-by-step procedure outlined here:
- Determine the total number of valence (outer shell) electrons. For cations, subtract one electron for each positive charge. For anions, add one electron for each negative charge.
- Draw a skeleton structure of the molecule or ion, arranging the atoms around a central atom. (Generally, the least electronegative element should be placed in the center.) Connect each atom to the central atom with a single bond (one electron pair).
- Distribute the remaining electrons as lone pairs on the terminal atoms (except hydrogen), completing an octet around each atom.
- Place all remaining electrons on the central atom.
- Rearrange the electrons of the outer atoms to make multiple bonds with the central atom in order to obtain octets wherever possible.
Let us determine the Lewis structures of SiH4, CHO2−, NO+, and OF2 as examples in following this procedure:
- Determine the total number of valence (outer shell) electrons in the molecule or ion.
2. Draw a skeleton structure of the molecule or ion, arranging the atoms around a central atom and connecting each atom to the central atom with a single (one electron pair) bond. (Note that we denote ions with brackets around the structure, indicating the charge outside the brackets:)
When several arrangements of atoms are possible, as for CHO2−,CHO2−, we must use experimental evidence to choose the correct one. In general, the less electronegative elements are more likely to be central atoms. In CHO2−, the less electronegative carbon atom occupies the central position with the oxygen and hydrogen atoms surrounding it. Other examples include P in POCl3, S in SO2, and Cl in ClO4−. An exception is that hydrogen is almost never a central atom. As the most electronegative element, fluorine also cannot be a central atom.
3. Distribute the remaining electrons as lone pairs on the terminal atoms (except hydrogen) to complete their valence shells with an octet of electrons.
4. Place all remaining electrons on the central atom.
5. Rearrange the electrons of the outer atoms to make multiple bonds with the central atom in order to obtain octets wherever possible.
Related Topic: The Lewis Structures
Flowers, P., Theopold, K., Langley, R., & Robinson, W. R. (2019, February 14). Chemistry 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/books/chemistry-2e
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