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Overview of Chemical Bonds

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  • 0:00 What Is a Chemical Bond?
  • 1:07 Ionic Bonds
  • 2:20 Covalent Bonds
  • 3:07 Other Types: Polar…
  • 3:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Learn about the most common kinds of chemical bonds: ionic, covalent, polar covalent, and metallic. Discover how they form and why they hold together. Take a quiz and see how much knowledge you've held onto.

What Is a Chemical Bond?

Look around you. Everything is made out of chemicals: the computer screen you're reading this on, the floor underneath you, your body, and even the air you breathe. All of these things contain atoms found in the periodic table of elements. These include hydrogen atoms, oxygen atoms, iron atoms, carbon atoms, and many more.

But those atoms are not on their own sadly moping about in space. No, instead they like to be friendly with each other and are connected together in all kinds of weird and wonderful combinations. These combinations are called chemicals, and the atoms in those chemicals are connected together by chemical bonds.

A chemical bond is an attraction between two or more atoms, and is what forms a chemical. This is an electrostatic attraction - an attraction between positive and negative charges. In each atom, there are positively charged protons in the nucleus and negatively charged electrons orbiting around the outside. And it's the interaction of these charges that causes atoms to stick together with chemical bonds.

There are several types of chemical bonds, but the two most important and most common types are ionic bonds and covalent bonds.

Ionic Bonds

An ionic bond is an attraction between two atoms due to one transferring an electron (or several electrons) to the other. The electrons of an atom are arranged into shells, with two electrons in the first shell, eight in the second, and eight in the third. And atoms like to have full shells. If you have an atom that has just one electron in its outer shell, it wants desperately to lose that one electron so that it has a full outer shell. If you have an atom that has seven electrons on its outer shell, it wants desperately to gain one electron. Both atoms feel incomplete.

Put these two atoms together, and you get fireworks! One wants an electron, the other wants to get rid of an electron, so they transfer an electron between them. This makes the two atoms super happy. And just like in human relationships, when two atoms fit together so well, it's hard to tear them apart. The atom that gained a negative electron now has a negative charge, and the atom that lost a negative electron now has a positive charge. Since opposites attract, the two atoms stick together. And lo and behold, an ionic bond is formed!

Ionic bonds tend to form between a metal and a non-metal. This is because metals have a smaller number of electrons on their outer shell, and non-metals have a large number of electrons. The shells of non-metals are almost full, so metals can give their extra electrons away to them.

Covalent Bonds

A covalent bond is an attraction between two atoms due to the sharing of electrons between them. These kinds of bonds form when two atoms have mostly full outer shells. If these two atoms both have seven out of eight electrons in their outer shells, they can each share an electron. By doing this, each atom gains the one extra electron it needs to have a full outer shell of eight electrons.

Covalent bonds hold atoms together because the electrons sit in between the two atoms. The attraction between the negative electrons and the positive nuclei of the atoms is stronger than the repulsion between the nuclei of each atom. This is because the distance between the two nuclei is twice as large as the distance between the electrons and each nucleus.

Since covalent bonds form between atoms with mostly full outer shells, they tend to form between two non-metal atoms.

Other Types: Polar Covalent and Metallic

There are two other types of bonds to talk about: polar covalent bonds and metallic bonds.

Polar covalent bonds are covalent bonds in which the shared electrons are more attracted to one atom than the other and move closer to that atom. This makes one atom in the bond negatively charged and the other atom positively charged, which can hold the material together even more strongly.

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