Molecular Shape

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

When atoms are linked together, molecules with various shapes can be formed. Although we draw diagrammatic structures of molecules on flat sheets of paper, molecules are actually three-dimensional. When more than one covalent bond is formed with a given atom, the bonds are distributed around the atom in a pattern that may or may not be symmetrical. Molecules are not rigid, inflexible structures. Within certain limits, the shape of a molecule can be changed without breaking the covalent bonds linking its atoms together. A covalent bond is like an axle around which the joined atoms can rotate. A sequence of six carbon atoms can assume a number of shapes as a result of rotations around various covalent bonds. As we shall see, the three-dimensional, flexible shape of molecules is one of the major factors governing molecular interactions.