We can explain ionic bond as the force between charged particles due to Coulomb electrostatic law. This got me wondering how is then covalent bond explained purely in terms of physics?

  • $\begingroup$ why the deselection? $\endgroup$ Jun 20 '19 at 6:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of What gives covalent bond its strength? $\endgroup$ Jun 20 '19 at 6:53
  • $\begingroup$ @StéphaneRollandin I think my question is different because it questions the existence of a covalent bond given the law of physics (i.e. coulombs law) because it wasn't apparent to me (unlike the ionic bond). I am satisfied with the answer presented. $\endgroup$ Jun 20 '19 at 10:23

Eventually, every kind of bond in condensed matter is reducible to electrostatics. Covalent bond, ionic bond, van der Waals forces, metallic interactions and even more sophisticated interactions like the phonon-mediated electron-electron attraction in a superconductor, are all reducible to purely electrostatic interactions between electrons and nuclei.

What ensures the observed variety of behaviors is the fact that at least one component of the matter does not behave like classical particles but QM is required, in addition to the introduction of effective interactions between a reduced number of degrees of freedom.

  • $\begingroup$ This doesn't provide an explanation of covalent bonding. every kind of bond in condensed matter is reducible to electrostatics The OP didn't ask specifically about condensed matter, as opposed to, e.g., H2 gas. And I don't think it's true at all to say that such bonds are always "reducible to electrostatics." Polarization effects are in general dynamical. And I don't see how you can say that the 2.8 eV binding energy of the H2+ ion is "reducible to electrostatics." There is clearly a net repulsion in this case if you only consider electrostatics. $\endgroup$
    – user4552
    Jun 20 '19 at 12:19

Covalent bonding is a quantum-mechanical phenomenon that can't be explained classically. The basic idea can be demonstrated in the case of a hydrogen molecule if you think of the electrons as two particles in a box. By joining the two hydrogen atoms together into a molecule, you make the "box" twice as long. Let's pretend that this is a rectangular box. Lengthening the cubical box into a $2\times 1 \times 1$ box makes the wavelength along the long axis twice as big. By the de Broglie relation $p=h/\lambda$, this reduces the momentum in that direction by a factor of $2$, which makes the associated kinetic energy $1/4$ as much. The lowered energy makes the system more stable. To pull it apart, you would need to add energy.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.