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Writing lewis structures

NASA’s Cassini-Huygens mission detected a large cloud of toxic hydrogen cyanide (HCN) on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. Titan also contains ethane (H 3 CCH 3 ), acetylene (HCCH), and ammonia (NH 3 ). What are the Lewis structures of these molecules?

Solution

  1. Calculate the number of valence electrons.
    HCN: (1 × 1) + (4 × 1) + (5 × 1) = 10
    H 3 CCH 3 : (1 × 3) + (2 × 4) + (1 × 3) = 14
    HCCH: (1 × 1) + (2 × 4) + (1 × 1) = 10
    NH 3 : (5 × 1) + (3 × 1) = 8
  2. Draw a skeleton and connect the atoms with single bonds. Remember that H is never a central atom:
    Four Lewis structures are shown. The first structure shows a carbon atom single bonded to a hydrogen atom and a nitrogen atom. The second structure shows two carbon atoms single bonded to one another. Each is single bonded to three hydrogen atoms. The third structure shows two carbon atoms single bonded to one another and each single bonded to one hydrogen atom. The fourth structure shows a nitrogen atom single bonded to three hydrogen atoms.
  3. Where needed, distribute electrons to the terminal atoms:
    Four Lewis structures are shown. The first structure shows a carbon atom single bonded to a hydrogen atom and a nitrogen atom, which has three lone pairs of electrons. The second structure shows two carbon atoms single bonded to one another. Each is single bonded to three hydrogen atoms. The third structure shows two carbon atoms single bonded to one another and each single bonded to one hydrogen atom. The fourth structure shows a nitrogen atom single bonded to three hydrogen atoms.
    HCN: six electrons placed on N
    H 3 CCH 3 : no electrons remain
    HCCH: no terminal atoms capable of accepting electrons
    NH 3 : no terminal atoms capable of accepting electrons
  4. Where needed, place remaining electrons on the central atom:
    Four Lewis structures are shown. The first structure shows a carbon atom single bonded to a hydrogen atom and a nitrogen atom, which has three lone pairs of electrons. The second structure shows two carbon atoms single bonded to one another. Each is single bonded to three hydrogen atoms. The third structure shows two carbon atoms, each with a lone pair of electrons, single bonded to one another and each single bonded to one hydrogen atom. The fourth structure shows a nitrogen atom with a lone pair of electrons single bonded to three hydrogen atoms.
    HCN: no electrons remain
    H 3 CCH 3 : no electrons remain
    HCCH: four electrons placed on carbon
    NH 3 : two electrons placed on nitrogen
  5. Where needed, rearrange electrons to form multiple bonds in order to obtain an octet on each atom:
    HCN: form two more C–N bonds
    H 3 CCH 3 : all atoms have the correct number of electrons
    HCCH: form a triple bond between the two carbon atoms
    NH 3 : all atoms have the correct number of electrons
    Four Lewis structures are shown. The first structure shows a carbon atom single bonded to a hydrogen atom and a nitrogen atom, which has three lone pairs of electrons. Two curved arrows point from the nitrogen to the carbon. Below this structure is the word “gives” and below that is the same structure, but this time there is a triple bond between the carbon and nitrogen. The second structure shows two carbons single bonded to one another and each single bonded to three hydrogen atoms. The third structure shows two carbon atoms, each with a lone pair of electrons, single bonded to one another and each single bonded to one hydrogen atom. Two curved arrows point from the carbon atoms to the space in between the two. Below this structure is the word “gives” and the same structure, but this time with a triple bond between the two carbons. The fourth structure shows a nitrogen atom with a lone pair of electrons single bonded to three hydrogen atoms.

Check your learning

Both carbon monoxide, CO, and carbon dioxide, CO 2 , are products of the combustion of fossil fuels. Both of these gases also cause problems: CO is toxic and CO 2 has been implicated in global climate change. What are the Lewis structures of these two molecules?

Answer:

Two Lewis structures are shown. The left shows a carbon triple bonded to an oxygen, each with a lone electron pair. The right structure shows a carbon double bonded to an oxygen on each side. Each oxygen has two lone pairs of electrons.
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Fullerene chemistry

Carbon soot has been known to man since prehistoric times, but it was not until fairly recently that the molecular structure of the main component of soot was discovered. In 1996, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Richard Smalley ( [link] ), Robert Curl, and Harold Kroto for their work in discovering a new form of carbon, the C 60 buckminsterfullerene molecule ( [link] ). An entire class of compounds, including spheres and tubes of various shapes, were discovered based on C 60. This type of molecule, called a fullerene, shows promise in a variety of applications. Because of their size and shape, fullerenes can encapsulate other molecules, so they have shown potential in various applications from hydrogen storage to targeted drug delivery systems. They also possess unique electronic and optical properties that have been put to good use in solar powered devices and chemical sensors.

A photo of Richard Smalley is shown.
Richard Smalley (1943–2005), a professor of physics, chemistry, and astronomy at Rice University, was one of the leading advocates for fullerene chemistry. Upon his death in 2005, the US Senate honored him as the “Father of Nanotechnology.” (credit: United States Department of Energy)

Exceptions to the octet rule

Many covalent molecules have central atoms that do not have eight electrons in their Lewis structures. These molecules fall into three categories:

  • Odd-electron molecules have an odd number of valence electrons, and therefore have an unpaired electron.
  • Electron-deficient molecules have a central atom that has fewer electrons than needed for a noble gas configuration.
  • Hypervalent molecules have a central atom that has more electrons than needed for a noble gas configuration.

Questions & Answers

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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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