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Electrons, Ionic Bonds

  1. Jan 3, 2016 #1
    Hello Physics Forum, I have a quick question for the scientific community that I am unable to find online (likely because the term doesn't exist), but is there are term for the act of an electron moving from one orbit into another when binding two elements? Also I have a very minimal understanding of Chemistry, Physics, and Quantum Mechanics. What are some sources that I may find valuable in my search for further information in these fields?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 3, 2016 #2
    The semi-classical picture of an electron whizzing in a figure-8 shape around nuclei in a molecule is wrong.
    What happens in a molecule like H2 is that the molecule has shared, molecule-wide wave functions. A search term that might help you is "(orbital) hybridization".

  4. Jan 3, 2016 #3
    Thank you M Quack! I appreciate your timely response I think this is the term I was looking for.
  5. Jan 3, 2016 #4


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    That kind of bonding is often referred to as Covalent bonding. There are also bonds that are classified as Ionic and, using the same wave function description, I guess you could say that the valency electron wave function, rather than being spread around both atoms, becomes localised with the non metal atom and leaves the metal atom, forming two ions (approximately?).
    In so called metallic bonding, the wave functions of the valence electrons occupy a region around many adjacent atoms. The electrons can be found anywhere in the metal.
    As usual, it is risky to get too hung up on what to call things because there are situations which are less easy to classify in these simplistic ways. At least the wave function description is nice and 'fuzzy' which warns us to be careful with classification. The mechanical properties of solids reflects the kind of bonding involved.
  6. Jan 4, 2016 #5
    Keep in mind that "covalent" and "ionic" are not black and white. Rather, there is a wide spectrum of gray between the extremes. H2 is completely symmetric, so one might call it perfectly covalent. H2O (water) for example is still covalent, but the electrons are much more on the oxygen than on the hydrogen.
    When you start to go from simple molecules to extended crystals, such as metals you start to get delocalization effects and the formation of continuous bands rather than discrete energy levels. Even there you can find more or less localized examples, such as NaCl (rock salt), which to good approximation is formed from ions, and in-betweens such as GaAs (III-V semiconductors) or even more so CdTe (II-VI semiconductors) which can be seen as part ionic part covalent.
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