Electron-Deficient Molecules


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Electron-Deficient Molecules. Two Lewis structures are shown. The left shows a beryllium atom single bonded to two hydrogen atoms. The right shows a boron atom single bonded to three fluorine atoms, each with three lone pairs of electrons.
Source: OpenStax Chemistry 2e

Electron-Deficient Molecules (OpenStax Chemistry 2e)

There are few molecules that contain central atoms that do not have a filled valence shell. Generally, these are molecules with central atoms from groups 2 and 13, outer atoms that are hydrogen, or other atoms that do not form multiple bonds. For example, in the Lewis structures of beryllium dihydride, BeH2, and boron trifluoride, BF3, the beryllium and boron atoms each have only four and six electrons, respectively. It is possible to draw a structure with a double bond between a boron atom and a fluorine atom in BF3, satisfying the octet rule, but experimental evidence indicates the bond lengths are closer to that expected for B–F single bonds. This suggests the best Lewis structure has three B–F single bonds and an electron deficient boron. The reactivity of the compound is also consistent with an electron deficient boron. However, the B–F bonds are slightly shorter than what is actually expected for B–F single bonds, indicating that some double bond character is found in the actual molecule.

An atom like the boron atom in BF3, which does not have eight electrons, is very reactive. It readily combines with a molecule containing an atom with a lone pair of electrons. For example, NH3 reacts with BF3 because the lone pair on nitrogen can be shared with the boron atom:Electron-Deficient Molecules. A reaction is shown with three Lewis diagrams. The left diagram shows a boron atom single bonded to three fluorine atoms, each with three lone pairs of electrons. There is a plus sign. The next structure shows a nitrogen atom with one lone pair of electrons single bonded to three hydrogen atoms. A right-facing arrow leads to the final Lewis structure that shows a boron atom single bonded to a nitrogen atom and single bonded to three fluorine atoms, each with three lone pairs of electrons. The nitrogen atom is also single bonded to three hydrogen atoms. The bond between the boron atom and the nitrogen atom is colored red.

Electron-Deficient Molecules Related Topic: Signaling Molecules


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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