Bonding Between Atoms
Home Table of Contents Preliminary Information Review Bonding Between Atoms Ionic Bonding Covalent Bonding Metallic Bonding Wrap-Up


Bonding Between Atoms

With the review material from the previous pages about classifications of atoms and tendencies to gain and lose electrons in mind, let's consider bonding between atoms. The very heart of bonding is the attraction between positive and negative charges, specifically the positive charge of the nucleus and the negative charge of the electrons. The varying tendencies of atoms to gain or lose electrons allows them to attract one another in various ways and form different kinds of bonds.

Determining Bond Types

Because the inert gases are not particularly good at either gaining or losing electrons, they are not particularly good at forming bonds. They do form some bonds, but not many, and we won't be concerned with them here.

So, if we ignore the inert gases, then we have two types of atoms: metallic atoms and nonmetallic atoms. There are three combinations in which these types of atoms can bond to one another. First, metal atoms can bond to other metal atoms in what we call, naturally, metallic bonding. Second, nonmetal atoms can bond to other nonmetal atoms in what should perhaps be called nonmetallic bonding, but instead we call it covalent bonding. Third, metal atoms can bond to nonmetal atoms in what we call ionic bonding.
metallic atoms nonmetallic atoms
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Keep in mind throughout this lesson that you can (and should) use this simple idea to determine the type of bonding by looking at the types of atoms that are involved. Like many generalities this is an oversimplification (particularly with transition metals and metalloids), but it can be very useful one.


Bond Type Characteristics

Metallic, ionic, and covalent are the three primary types of chemical bonding. We can call them atomic bonds because they bond atoms together. Here are some things to keep in mind as you study each of these types of bonding. Ionic and covalent are the most important in chemistry because ionic and covalent bonding can result in the formation of compounds. You will see that ionic and covalent bonding between different elements results in the formation of compounds because the atoms bond to one another in fixed ratios. Remember, fixed ratios of one element to another is a crucial characteristic of compounds. Metallic bonding results in the formation of alloys rather than compounds because it does not require that the atoms combine in fixed ratios.

The nature of each of these three kinds of bonding is addressed in the next three sections of this lesson.



Try your hand at using this generality by doing exercise 4 in your workbook. You can check your answers below.



Sodium bonds to sodium using metallic bonding. Sodium bonds to iron with metallic bonding. Sodium bonds to fluorine with ionic bonding. Iron bonds to fluorine with ionic bonding. Phosphorus bonds to fluorine with covalent bonding. Fluorine bonds to fluorine with covalent bonding.

If you got all of these correct, continue. If not, check with the instructor, explain your answers and find out why these pairs of atoms are considered to have the kinds of bonds listed.


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