Basic Atomic Bonds

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

By Oleksandr Koliakin

You might wonder how molecules are created. Atoms don't just bond with other random atoms to produce molecules. Atomic bonding is far more complicated than that. We will discuss the three most basic bonds in this article. An ionic bond occurs when a positive cation (an atom with one or two less electrons than protons, which means it is an ion) 'borrows' a few electrons from a negative anion (an atom with one or two more electrons than protons, which means it is an ion) so that the two atoms are neutral. They form a molecule. This type of bonding usually only works for different metals.

Non metals combine into molecules using covalent bonds. Covalent bonds occur when two or more atoms 'decide' to 'share' electrons, so that their outer shell is at full capacity. The electrons of one atom are then also attracted by the nucleus of the second atom, and this outweighs the atoms’ natural repulsion, holding them together in a molecule.

Metals also use something known as a metallic bond. In a metallic bond, electrons float away from their nuclei, turning into a ‘sea’ of electrons around a lattice of positively charged nuclei. Because of this, metals usually have high melting points, are shiny, and conduct electricity very well.

There are many other atomic bonds, such as hydrogen bonds and pi bonds. We will discuss those in a later article.


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