Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Where do electrons go (?) within a covalent bond

  1. Aug 10, 2011 #1
    "Where" do electrons "go"(?) within a covalent bond

    If you take a water molecule (H-O-H) with 2 covalent bonds (imagine, just for now, that this is the only 2 atoms around ;-).

    The H’s electron and one of the O’s electrons (within the covalent bond) must be “somewhere”.

    They were originally in an atomic orbital around their own nucleus.
    But where are they “after the bond has formed”.

    Do they orbit the whole molecule or do they continue to orbit their own (original) nuclei?
    How is the bond formed (a sort of glue type analogy) – what actually makes the atoms “stick” ?

    Thank you
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 10, 2011 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: "Where" do electrons "go"(?) within a covalent bond

    It depends on whether it's a sigma or a pi bond :P

    You might be making the mistake of thinking of electrons as hard little pellets. Instead, think of it as a matter wave distributed over both molecules:

    further reading:
    http://www.doctortang.com/AP Chemistry (Old)/Chapter 09 Notes (answers).pdf

    or just google:
    covalent bond orbitals
  4. Aug 10, 2011 #3
    Re: "Where" do electrons "go"(?) within a covalent bond

    Thank you.
    The link to the PDF was very helpful.
    I think I understand it now - the atom's electrons (in a quantum sense) are wavelike and in a covalent bond the waves merge electromagnetically due to polarity of (in this case) the H-O-H, and it is the merged waves that "stick/glue" the H to the O due to "opposits attract" - as the electron wave/particles now spend more time between the nuclie than elsewhere as each electron is attracted to the other nuclius (so the H electron to the O nuclius, and the O electron to the H nuclius).

    I hope I have it ?
    (the last time I did physics was over 30 years ago - it may take some time to come back ;-)
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook