Materials Science and Engineering/List of Topics/Hybridization

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In chemistry, hybridisation or hybridization (see also spelling differences) is the concept of mixing atomic orbitals to form new hybrid orbitals suitable for the qualitative description of atomic bonding properties. Hybridised orbitals are very useful in the explanation of the shape of molecular orbitals for molecules. It is an integral part of valence bond theory. Although sometimes taught together with the valence shell electron-pair repulsion (VSEPR) theory, valence bond and hybridization are in fact not related to the VSEPR model.

Historical Development[edit | edit source]

The hybridisation theory was promoted by chemist Linus Pauling in order to explain the structure of molecules such as methane (CH4). Historically, this concept was developed for such simple chemical systems but the approach was later applied more widely, and today it is considered an effective heuristic for rationalizing the structures of organic compounds.

Hybridisation theory is not as practical for quantitative calculations as Molecular Orbital Theory. Problems with hybridisation are especially notable when the d orbitals are involved in bonding, as in coordination chemistry and organometallic chemistry. Although hybridisation schemes in transition metal chemistry can be used, they are not generally as accurate.

It is important to note that orbitals are a model representation of the behavior of electrons within molecules. In the case of simple hybridisation, this approximation is based on the atomic orbitals of hydrogen. Hybridised orbitals are assumed to be mixtures of these atomic orbitals, superimposed on each other in various proportions. Hydrogen orbitals are used as a basis for simple schemes of hybridisation because it is one of the few examples of orbitals for which an exact analytic solution to its Schrödinger equation is known. These orbitals are then assumed to be slightly, but not significantly, distorted in heavier atoms, like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. Under these assumptions is the theory of hybridisation most applicable. It must be noted that one does not need hybridisation to describe molecules, but for molecules made up from carbon, nitrogen and oxygen (and to a lesser extent, sulfur and phosphorus) the hybridisation theory/model makes the description much easier.

The hybridisation theory finds its use mainly in organic chemistry, and mostly concerns C, N and O (and to a lesser extent P and S). Its explanation starts with the way bonding is organized in methane.