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This figure shows large brown spheres arranged in a cube.
Copper is a metallic solid.

Covalent network solid

Covalent network solids include crystals of diamond, silicon, some other nonmetals, and some covalent compounds such as silicon dioxide (sand) and silicon carbide (carborundum, the abrasive on sandpaper). Many minerals have networks of covalent bonds. The atoms in these solids are held together by a network of covalent bonds, as shown in [link] . To break or to melt a covalent network solid, covalent bonds must be broken. Because covalent bonds are relatively strong, covalent network solids are typically characterized by hardness, strength, and high melting points. For example, diamond is one of the hardest substances known and melts above 3500 °C.

Four pairs of images are shown. In the first pair, a square box containing a black atom bonded to four other black atoms is shown above a structure composed of many black atoms, each bonded to four other black atoms, where one of the upper atoms is labeled “carbon” and the whole structure is labeled “diamond.” In the second pair, a square box containing a white atom bonded to four red atoms is shown above a structure composed of many white atoms, each bonded to four red atoms, where one of the red atoms is labeled “oxygen” and one of the white atoms is labeled “silicon.” The whole structure is labeled “silicon dioxide.” In the third pair, a square box containing a blue atom bonded to four white atoms is shown above a structure composed of many blue atoms, each bonded to four white atoms, where one of the blue atoms is labeled “carbon” and one of the white atoms is labeled “silicon.” The whole structure is labeled “silicon carbide.” In the fourth pair, a square box containing six black atoms bonded into a ring is shown above a structure composed of many rings, arranged into sheets layered one atop the other, where one of the black atoms is labeled “carbon.” The whole structure is labeled “graphite.”
A covalent crystal contains a three-dimensional network of covalent bonds, as illustrated by the structures of diamond, silicon dioxide, silicon carbide, and graphite. Graphite is an exceptional example, composed of planar sheets of covalent crystals that are held together in layers by noncovalent forces. Unlike typical covalent solids, graphite is very soft and electrically conductive.

Molecular solid

Molecular solids , such as ice, sucrose (table sugar), and iodine, as shown in [link] , are composed of neutral molecules. The strengths of the attractive forces between the units present in different crystals vary widely, as indicated by the melting points of the crystals. Small symmetrical molecules (nonpolar molecules), such as H 2 , N 2 , O 2 , and F 2 , have weak attractive forces and form molecular solids with very low melting points (below −200 °C). Substances consisting of larger, nonpolar molecules have larger attractive forces and melt at higher temperatures. Molecular solids composed of molecules with permanent dipole moments (polar molecules) melt at still higher temperatures. Examples include ice (melting point, 0 °C) and table sugar (melting point, 185 °C).

Two images are shown and labeled “carbon dioxide” and “iodine.” The carbon dioxide structure is composed of molecules, each made up of one gray and two red atoms, stacked together into a cube. The image of iodine shows pairs of purple atoms arranged near one another, but not touching.
Carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) consists of small, nonpolar molecules and forms a molecular solid with a melting point of −78 °C. Iodine (I 2 ) consists of larger, nonpolar molecules and forms a molecular solid that melts at 114 °C.

Properties of solids

A crystalline solid, like those listed in [link] , has a precise melting temperature because each atom or molecule of the same type is held in place with the same forces or energy. Thus, the attractions between the units that make up the crystal all have the same strength and all require the same amount of energy to be broken. The gradual softening of an amorphous material differs dramatically from the distinct melting of a crystalline solid. This results from the structural nonequivalence of the molecules in the amorphous solid. Some forces are weaker than others, and when an amorphous material is heated, the weakest intermolecular attractions break first. As the temperature is increased further, the stronger attractions are broken. Thus amorphous materials soften over a range of temperatures.

Types of Crystalline Solids and Their Properties
Type of Solid Type of Particles Type of Attractions Properties Examples
ionic ions ionic bonds hard, brittle, conducts electricity as a liquid but not as a solid, high to very high melting points NaCl, Al 2 O 3
metallic atoms of electropositive elements metallic bonds shiny, malleable, ductile, conducts heat and electricity well, variable hardness and melting temperature Cu, Fe, Ti, Pb, U
covalent network atoms of electronegative elements covalent bonds very hard, not conductive, very high melting points C (diamond), SiO 2 , SiC
molecular molecules (or atoms) IMFs variable hardness, variable brittleness, not conductive, low melting points H 2 O, CO 2 , I 2 , C 12 H 22 O 11

Questions & Answers

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Practice Key Terms 8

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Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry. OpenStax CNX. May 20, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11760/1.9
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