Double Bond: Definition, Formation & Example

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  • 0:01 Definition of a Double Bond
  • 1:10 Formation of Double Bonds
  • 2:50 Examples
  • 4:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth (Nikki) Wyman

Nikki has a master's degree in teaching chemistry and has taught high school chemistry, biology and astronomy.

In the world of shared electrons, double bonds are generally doubly strong. In this lesson, learn what a double bond is and how double bonds form. Enhance your understanding with examples of compounds that contain double bonds, then quiz yourself on your new knowledge.

Definition of a Double Bond

It's no secret, the more you share, the stronger you are. At least that's true if you are an atom, and you're sharing electrons! Atoms are capable of sharing up to three sets of electrons. A double bond occurs when two atoms share two sets of electrons.

Electrons are always shared in pairs. Each shared pair of electrons is called a covalent bond. Two shared electrons equate to a single covalent bond. Two sets of two shared electrons equate to a double covalent bond. A total of four electrons are being shared in a double bond, which is represented by two parallel lines.

Since four electrons are shared between two atoms in a double bond, more energy is required to break the bonded atoms apart compared to a single bond. Breaking a double bond between oxygen atoms requires three times the energy necessary to break a single bond between oxygen atoms. The same is true for nitrogen. What makes a double bond stronger also makes it shorter. The average bond length for a carbon double bonded to another carbon is 13% shorter than that of two single bonded carbons.

Formation of Double Bonds

Double bonds form when two atoms must share four electrons in order to achieve the octet rule. The octet rule states that atoms will lose, gain, or share electrons to have eight valence electrons. Double bonds form quite frequently in nature, and are usually made by nonmetals like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. To understand how double bonds form, let's take a look at what's happening with the building blocks of bonds, the electrons.

Electrons move erratically and quickly around an atom. Electrons will stay within certain shapes depending on their energy level and closeness to the nucleus. The particular shapes inhabited by electrons are called electron orbitals. There are four shapes of electron orbitals: s, p, d and f. In double bonds, the s and p orbitals are involved.

Some atoms may donate more electrons to a double bond, while others may donate less. Regardless of which atom brought what, the atoms must shuffle around their available electrons to accommodate sharing of four electrons.

Each atom must first fuse their outermost s orbital with a p orbital to make what is called an sp orbital. This hybridized orbital will contain two electrons. The sp orbital from each atom will overlap so that each atom has access to these two electrons. This bond is known as a sigma bond. Each atom will then use one of its two remaining p orbitals to share two electrons with the other atom. Electrons shared in overlapping p orbitals are called pi bonds. A double bond consists of one sigma bond and one pi bond. The drawing shows how they are arranged between two oxygen atoms (see video).

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