Simple Molecules: Examples & Explanation

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  • 0:02 Simple Molecules
  • 0:50 Diatomic Molecules
  • 1:35 Covalent Bonds
  • 2:26 Ionic Bonds
  • 3:11 Structure
  • 4:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Roger Harris
Discover the chemical and structural basis of several simple molecules, which form by two kinds of molecular bonds according to the octet rule. The molecules covered include oxygen, nitrogen, table salt, and carbon compounds.

Simple Molecules

Look around you. Everything you see is made of molecules, except for things made of pure elements, such as gold or silver jewelry. In this lesson, we look at how atoms, the basic building blocks of matter, form simple molecules, which in turn are the building blocks for more complex things.

First, let's start with answering the question, What is a molecule? The answer is that a molecule is a combination of elements. Most molecules are made of several different elements, like the kinds of molecules in your body. These are very complex, consisting of hundreds, if not thousands, of atoms. But some important molecules, some vital to life, are structurally simple, often made only of a single element. Simple molecules are made up of just one or a few elements.

Diatomic Molecules

Take a breath. Oxygen is an essential component of the air you breathe. The oxygen in air is a simple molecule made of two atoms of oxygen, with a molecular formula of O2. About three-quarters of the air you breathe is another simple molecule - nitrogen gas, which is made of two atoms of nitrogen. Molecules made of two atoms of the same element are called diatomic molecules. Many elements form diatomic molecules, so they are among the most important simple molecules. Like other molecules, diatomic molecules form due to bonds between atoms. Molecules are held together by two types of bonds. Let's take a look at those now.

Covalent Bonds

Bonds form because most atoms are highly reactive unless bonded to other atoms. For many elements the octet rule dictates that their atoms must have eight electrons in their outer shell to be chemically stable. For example, an atom of oxygen has six electrons in its outer shell. The oxygen atom must add two electrons to become chemically stable. When two atoms of oxygen combine, they each share two electrons, giving eight electrons in their outer shells. This type of bond is called a covalent bond.

When you drink water, you are drinking oxygen bonded with hydrogen by covalent bonds. Although it is a simple molecule, water is the basis of life. Each oxygen atom shares an electron with two hydrogen atoms. The chemical formula of water is H2O.

Ionic Bonds

Another type of bond is the ionic bond. A simple molecule formed by an ionic bond is table salt, which people like to use on food, such as fries or potato chips. The chemical name for salt is sodium chloride. Molecules of sodium chloride are made of one atom of sodium and one atom of chlorine. On their own, these elements on their own are highly reactive. Yet, when bonded, the result is a stable compound.

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