What is catenation?

Catenation can be defined as the self-linking of atoms of an element to form chains and rings. This definition can be extended to include the formation of layers like two-dimensional catenation and space lattices like three-dimensional catenation.

Examples of Catenation

The most common examples of catenation or elements that exhibit catenation are:

  • Carbon
  • Silicon
  • Sulfur
  • Boron

Catenation occurs most readily in carbon, forming covalent bonds to form longer chains and structures with other carbon atoms. This is why the vast number of organic compounds are found in nature. Carbon is best known for its catenation properties, with the analysis of catenated carbon structures in organic chemistry.

Carbon is by no means the only element capable of forming such catenae, however, and several other main group elements are capable of forming a wide range of catenae, including silicon, sulfur, and boron.

Catenation Property in Group 4

All the elements of carbon family or group 4 family exhibit catenation property. The first member from the family has the highest tendency to catenate.
Following is the tendency to catenate:

C > Si > Ge > Sn > Pb

Catenation tendency decreases down the group. This happens because the atomic size increases down the group and the strength of the covalent bond decreases. Hence, the catenation property decreases down the group.

What is the catenation tendency in C, Si, and Ge?

The catenation tendency in C, Si, and Ge is as follows:

Ge < Si < C

The bond energy of Ge is the lowest and hence the catenation tendency is the lowest. Also, increase in size and bond length will result in dcrease in catenation tendency.

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