Assignment of Hybrid Orbitals to Central Atoms

Assignment of Hybrid Orbitals to Central Atoms

The hybridization of an atom is determined based on the number of regions of electron density that surround it. The geometrical arrangements characteristic of the various sets of hybrid orbitals are shown in the figure below. These arrangements are identical to those of the electron-pair geometries predicted by VSEPR theory. VSEPR theory predicts the shapes of molecules, and hybrid orbital theory provides an explanation for how those shapes are formed. To find the hybridization of a central atom, we can use the following guidelines:

  1. Determine the Lewis structure of the molecule.
  2. Determine the number of regions of electron density around an atom using VSEPR theory, in which single bonds, multiple bonds, radicals, and lone pairs each count as one region.
  3. Assign the set of hybridized orbitals from the figure below that corresponds to this geometry.
A table is shown that is composed of five columns and six rows. The header row contains the phrases, “Regions of electron density,” “Arrangement,” (which has two columns below it), and “Hybridization,” (which has two columns below it). The first column contains the numbers “2,” “3,” “4,” “5,” and “6.” The second column contains images of a line, a triangle, a three sided pyramid, a trigonal bipyramid, and an eight-faced ocatahedron. The third column contains the terms, “Linear,” “Trigonal planar,” “Tetrahedral,” “Trigonal bipyramidal,” and “Octahedral.” The fourth column contains the terms “s p,” “s p superscript 2,” “s p superscript 3,” “s p superscript 3 d,” and “s p superscript 3 d superscript 2.” The last column contains drawings of the molecules beginning with a peanut-shaped structure marked with an angle of “180 degrees.” The second structure is made up of three equal-sized, rounded structures connected at one point with an angle of “120 degrees,” while the third structure is a three-dimensional arrangement of four equal-sized, rounded structures labeled as “109.5 degrees.” The fourth structure is made up of five equal-sized, rounded structures connected at “120 and 90 degrees,” while the fifth structure has six equal-sized, rounded structures connected at “90 degrees.”

The shapes of hybridized orbital sets are consistent with the electron-pair geometries. For example, an atom surrounded by three regions of electron density is sp2 hybridized, and the three sp2 orbitals are arranged in a trigonal planar fashion.

It is important to remember that hybridization was devised to rationalize experimentally observed molecular geometries. The model works well for molecules containing small central atoms, in which the valence electron pairs are close together in space. However, for larger central atoms, the valence-shell electron pairs are farther from the nucleus, and there are fewer repulsions.

Their compounds exhibit structures that are often not consistent with VSEPR theory, and hybridized orbitals are not necessary to explain the observed data. For example, we have discussed the H–O–H bond angle in H2O, 104.5°, which is more consistent with sp3 hybrid orbitals (109.5°) on the central atom than with 2p orbitals (90°). Sulfur is in the same group as oxygen, and H2S has a similar Lewis structure.

However, it has a much smaller bond angle (92.1°), which indicates much less hybridization on sulfur than oxygen. Continuing down the group, tellurium is even larger than sulfur, and for H2Te, the observed bond angle (90°) is consistent with overlap of the 5p orbitals, without invoking hybridization. We invoke hybridization where it is necessary to explain the observed structures.

Three Lewis structures are shown. The left structure shows an oxygen atom with two lone pairs of electrons single bonded to two hydrogen atoms. The middle structure is made up of a sulfur atom with two lone pairs of electrons single bonded to two hydrogen atoms. The right structure is made up of a tellurium atom with two lone pairs of electrons single bonded to two hydrogen atoms. From left to right, the bond angles of each molecule decrease.

Example: Assigning Hybridization

Ammonium sulfate is important as a fertilizer. What is the hybridization of the sulfur atom in the sulfate ion, \({\text{SO}}_{4}{}^{\text{2−}}?\)

Solution

The Lewis structure of sulfate shows there are four regions of electron density. The hybridization is sp3.

A structure is shown in which a sulfur atom is bonded to four oxygen atoms in a tetrahedral arrangement. Two of the oxygen atoms have a negative charge.

Example: Assigning Hybridization

Urea, NH2C(O)NH2, is sometimes used as a source of nitrogen in fertilizers. What is the hybridization of each nitrogen and carbon atom in urea?

Solution

The Lewis structure of urea is

A Lewis structure is shown in which a carbon atom is double bonded to an oxygen atom that has two lone pairs of electrons. The carbon atom forms single bonds to two nitrogen atoms. Each nitrogen is single bonded to two hydrogen atoms, and each nitrogen atoms has one lone pair of electrons.

The nitrogen atoms are surrounded by four regions of electron density, which arrange themselves in a tetrahedral electron-pair geometry. The hybridization in a tetrahedral arrangement is sp3 (the figure below). This is the hybridization of the nitrogen atoms in urea.

The carbon atom is surrounded by three regions of electron density, positioned in a trigonal planar arrangement. The hybridization in a trigonal planar electron pair geometry is sp2 (the figure below), which is the hybridization of the carbon atom in urea.

[Attributions and Licenses]


This is a lesson from the tutorial, Advanced Theories of Covalent Bonding and you are encouraged to log in or register, so that you can track your progress.

Log In

Share Thoughts