Two Electron GroupsThree Electron GroupsFour Electron GroupsFive Electron GroupsSix Electron Groups

Learning Objectives

To use the VSEPR model to predict molecular geometries. To predict whether a molecule has a dipole moment.

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The Lewis electron-pair approach can be used to predict the number and types of bonds between the atoms in a substance, and it indicates which atoms have lone pairs of electrons. This approach gives no information about the actual arrangement of atoms in space, however. We continue our discussion of structure and bonding by introducing the valence-shell electron-pair repulsion (VSEPR) model (pronounced “vesper”), which can be used to predict the shapes of many molecules and polyatomic ions. Keep in mind, however, that the VSEPR model, like any model, is a limited representation of reality; the model provides no information about bond lengths or the presence of multiple bonds.


The VSEPR Model

The VSEPR model can predict the structure of nearly any molecule or polyatomic ion in which the central atom is a nonmetal, as well as the structures of many molecules and polyatomic ions with a central metal atom. The VSEPR model is not a theory; it does not attempt to explain observations. Instead, it is a counting procedure that accurately predicts the three-dimensional structures of a large number of compounds, which cannot be predicted using the Lewis electron-pair approach.

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Figure \(\PageIndex1\): Common Structures for Molecules and Polyatomic Ions That Consist of a Central Atom Bonded to Two or Three Other Atoms

We can use the VSEPR model to predict the geometry of most polyatomic molecules and ions by focusing on only the number of electron pairs around the central atom, ignoring all other valence electrons present. According to this model, valence electrons in the Lewis structure form groups, which may consist of a single bond, a double bond, a triple bond, a lone pair of electrons, or even a single unpaired electron, which in the VSEPR model is counted as a lone pair. Because electrons repel each other electrostatically, the most stable arrangement of electron groups (i.e., the one with the lowest energy) is the one that minimizes repulsions. Groups are positioned around the central atom in a way that produces the molecular structure with the lowest energy, as illustrated in Figures \(\PageIndex1\) and \(\PageIndex2\).

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Figure \(\PageIndex2\): Geometries for Species with Two to Six Electron Groups. Groups are placed around the central atom in a way that produces a molecular structure with the lowest energy. That is, the one that minimizes repulsions.

In the VSEPR model, the molecule or polyatomic ion is given an AXmEn designation, where A is the central atom, X is a bonded atom, E is a nonbonding valence electron group (usually a lone pair of electrons), and m and n are integers. Each group around the central atom is designated as a bonding pair (BP) or lone (nonbonding) pair (LP). From the BP and LP interactions we can predict both the relative positions of the atoms and the angles between the bonds, called the bond angles. Using this information, we can describe the molecular geometry, the arrangement of the bonded atoms in a molecule or polyatomic ion. This procedure is summarized as follows:

Draw the Lewis electron structure of the molecule or polyatomic ion. Determine the electron group arrangement around the central atom that minimizes repulsions. Assign an AXmEn designation; then identify the LP–LP, LP–BP, or BP–BP interactions and predict deviations from ideal bond angles. Describe the molecular geometry.

We will illustrate the use of this procedure with several examples, beginning with atoms with two electron groups. In our discussion we will refer to Figure \(\PageIndex2\) and Figure \(\PageIndex3\), which summarize the common molecular geometries and idealized bond angles of molecules and ions with two to six electron groups.

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Figure \(\PageIndex3\): Common Molecular Geometries for Species with Two to Six Electron Groups. Lone pairs are shown using a dashed line.

Two Electron Groups

Our first example is a molecule with two bonded atoms and no lone pairs of electrons, \(BeH_2\).


AX2: BeH2

1. The central atom, beryllium, contributes two valence electrons, and each hydrogen atom contributes one. The Lewis electron structure is

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Figure \(\PageIndex2\) that the arrangement that minimizes repulsions places the groups 180° apart.

3. Both groups around the central atom are bonding pairs (BP). Thus BeH2 is designated as AX2.

4. From Figure \(\PageIndex3\) we see that with two bonding pairs, the molecular geometry that minimizes repulsions in BeH2 is linear.


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Three Electron Groups


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2. There are three electron groups around the central atom, two double bonds and one lone pair. We initially place the groups in a trigonal planar arrangement to minimize repulsions (Figure \(\PageIndex2\)).

3. There are two bonding pairs and one lone pair, so the structure is designated as AX2E. This designation has a total of three electron pairs, two X and one E. Because a lone pair is not shared by two nuclei, it occupies more space near the central atom than a bonding pair (Figure \(\PageIndex4\)). Thus bonding pairs and lone pairs repel each other electrostatically in the order BP–BP 2, we have one BP–BP interaction and two LP–BP interactions.

4. The molecular geometry is described only by the positions of the nuclei, not by the positions of the lone pairs. Thus with two nuclei and one lone pair the shape is bent, or V shaped, which can be viewed as a trigonal planar arrangement with a missing vertex (Figures 9.2.2.1 and 9.2.3).

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2. There are four electron groups around the central atom. As shown in Figure \(\PageIndex2\), repulsions are minimized by placing the groups in the corners of a tetrahedron with bond angles of 109.5°.

3. All electron groups are bonding pairs, so the structure is designated as AX4.

4. With four bonding pairs, the molecular geometry of methane is tetrahedral (Figure \(\PageIndex3\)).



AX3E: NH3

1. In ammonia, the central atom, nitrogen, has five valence electrons and each hydrogen donates one valence electron, producing the Lewis electron structure


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AX2E2: H2O

1. Oxygen has six valence electrons and each hydrogen has one valence electron, producing the Lewis electron structure


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AX5: PCl5

1. Phosphorus has five valence electrons and each chlorine has seven valence electrons, so the Lewis electron structure of PCl5 is


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With an expanded valence, that this species is an exception to the octet rule.

2. There are six electron groups around the central atom, each a bonding pair. We see from Figure \(\PageIndex2\) that the geometry that minimizes repulsions is octahedral.

3. With only bonding pairs, SF6 is designated as AX6. All positions are les-grizzlys-catalans.orgically equivalent, so all electronic interactions are equivalent.

4. There are six nuclei, so the molecular geometry of SF6 is octahedral.


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With its expanded valence, this species is an exception to the octet rule.

2. There are six electron groups around the Br, five bonding pairs and one lone pair. Placing five F atoms around Br while minimizing BP–BP and LP–BP repulsions gives the following structure:


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Figure \(\PageIndex6\): Overview of Molecular Geometries


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A The central atom, O, has six valence electrons, and each H atom contributes one valence electron. Subtracting one electron for the positive charge gives a total of eight valence electrons, so the Lewis electron structure is


B There are four electron groups around oxygen, three bonding pairs and one lone pair. Like NH3, repulsions are minimized by directing each hydrogen atom and the lone pair to the corners of a tetrahedron.

C With three bonding pairs and one lone pair, the structure is designated as AX3E and has a total of four electron pairs (three X and one E). We expect the LP–BP interactions to cause the bonding pair angles to deviate significantly from the angles of a perfect tetrahedron.

D There are three nuclei and one lone pair, so the molecular geometry is trigonal pyramidal, in essence a tetrahedron missing a vertex. However, the H–O–H bond angles are less than the ideal angle of 109.5° because of LP–BP repulsions:


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Example \(\PageIndex1\)

Predict the molecular geometry of each molecule.

XeF2 SnCl2

Given: two les-grizzlys-catalans.orgical compounds

Asked for: molecular geometry

Strategy:

Use the strategy given in Example 9.2.1.

See more: The Difference Between A Formal And A Vernacular Region Is That Region

Solution:

A Xenon contributes eight electrons and each fluorine seven valence electrons, so the Lewis electron structure is

B There are five electron groups around the central atom, two bonding pairs and three lone pairs. Repulsions are minimized by placing the groups in the corners of a trigonal bipyramid.

C From B, XeF2 is designated as AX2E3 and has a total of five electron pairs (two X and three E). With three lone pairs about the central atom, we can arrange the two F atoms in three possible ways: both F atoms can be axial, one can be axial and one equatorial, or both can be equatorial: