The Valence Bond Theory was developed in order to explain chemical bonding using the method of quantum mechanics. This theory primarily focuses on the formation of individual bonds from the atomic orbitals of the participating atoms during the formation of a molecule.
What is the Valence Bond Theory?
The Lewis approach to chemical bonding failed to shed light on the formation of chemical bonds. Also, valence shell electron pair repulsion theory (or VSEPR theory) had limited applications (and also failed in predicting the geometry corresponding to complex molecules).
In order to address these issues, the valence bond theory was put forth by the German physicists Walter Heinrich Heitler and Fritz Wolfgang London. The Schrodinger wave equation was also used to explain the formation of a covalent bond between two hydrogen atoms. The chemical bonding of two hydrogen atoms as per the valence bond theory is illustrated below.
This theory focuses on the concepts of electronic configuration, atomic orbitals (and their overlapping) and the hybridization of these atomic orbitals. Chemical bonds are formed from the overlapping of atomic orbitals wherein the electrons are localized in the corresponding bond region.
The valence bond theory also goes on to explain the electronic structure of the molecules formed by this overlapping of atomic orbitals. It also emphasizes that the nucleus of one atom in a molecule is attracted to the electrons of the other atoms.
Postulates of Valence Bond Theory
The important postulates of the valence bond theory are listed below.
- Covalent bonds are formed when two valence orbitals (half filled) belonging to two different atoms overlap on each other. The electron density in the area between the two bonding atoms increases as a result of this overlapping, thereby increasing the stability of the resulting molecule.
- The presence of many unpaired electrons in the valence shell of an atom enables it to form multiple bonds with other atoms. The paired electrons present in the valence shell do not take participate in the formation of chemical bonds as per the valence bond theory.
- Covalent chemical bonds are directional and are also parallel to the region corresponding to the atomic orbitals that are overlapping.
- Sigma bonds and pi bonds differ in the pattern that the atomic orbitals overlap in, i.e. pi bonds are formed from sidewise overlapping whereas the overlapping along the axis containing the nuclei of the two atoms leads to the formation of sigma bonds.
The formation of sigma and pi bonds is illustrated below.
It can be noted that sigma bonds involve the head-to-head overlapping of atomic orbitals whereas pi bonds involve parallel overlapping.
Applications and Limitations of VBT
The maximum overlap condition which is described by the valence bond theory can explain the formation of covalent bonds in several molecules. This is one of its most important applications. For example, the difference in the length and strength of the chemical bonds in H2 and F2 molecules can be explained by the difference in the overlapping orbitals in these molecules.
The covalent bond in an HF molecule is formed from the overlap of the 1s orbital of the hydrogen atom and a 2p orbital belonging to the fluorine atom, which is explained by the valence bond theory.
Limitations of Valence Bond Theory
The shortcomings of the valence bond theory include:
- Failure to explain the tetravalency exhibited by carbon
- No insight offered on the energies of the electrons.
- The theory assumes that electrons are localized in specific areas.
Thus, the limitations and the applications of the valence bond theory are discussed.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the valence bond theory?
It is a theory which describes chemical bonding. VBT states that the overlap of incompletely filled atomic orbitals leads to the formation of a chemical bond between two atoms. The unpaired electrons are shared and a hybrid orbital is formed.
How are sigma and pi bonds formed?
Sigma bonds are formed from the head-to-head overlapping of the atomic orbitals participating in the bond. Pi bonds, on the other hand, involve a parallel overlapping of the atomic orbitals.
What are the shortcomings of VBT?
The valence bond theory fails to explain the tetravalency of carbon and also failed to provide insight into the energies corresponding to the electrons. The theory also assumes that the electrons are localized in certain areas.
How is VBT different from the molecular orbital theory (MOT)?
The valence bond theory offers insight on the hybridization of the atomic orbitals that participate in bond formation, whereas the MOT does not. According to MOT, the atomic orbitals are polycentric whereas the VBT states that the atomic orbitals are monocentric.
What are the merits of the valence bond theory?
The condition of maximum overlap described by the VBT can be used to explain how covalent bonds are formed in many molecules. The theory can also offer insight into the ionic character of chemical bonds.
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