The Octet Rule

Submitted by ChemPRIME Staff on Thu, 12/09/2010 - 17:58

Because binary ionic compounds are confined mainly to groupThose elements that comprise a single column of the periodic table. Also called family. I and II elements on the one hand and group VI and VII elements on the other, we find that they consist mainly of ions having an electronic structure which is the same as that of a noble gasOne of the elements in the same column of the periodic table as helium; also called inert gas.. In calcium fluoride, for example, the calcium atom has lost two electrons in order to achieve the electronic structure of argon, and thus has a charge of +2:

Ca: → Ca2+ + 2e

1s22s22p63s23p64s2 → 1s22s22p63s23p6 + 2e


By contrast, a fluorine atom needs to acquire but one electron in order to achieve a neon structure. The resulting fluoride ion has a charge of –1:

Image:fluoride ion.jpg

The outermost shell of each of these ions has the electron configurationA representation of the number of electrons of an atom or ion and the orbitals in which they lie. For example, the electron configuration of oxygen is 1s22s22p4. ns2np6, where n is 3 for Ca2+ and 2 for F. Such an ns2np6 noble-gas electron configuration is encountered quite often. It is called an octetA stable set of eight electrons in the valence shell of an atom. Each noble-gas atom has an octet. because it contains eight electrons. In a crystalA solid with a regular polyhedral shape; for example, in sodium chloride (table salt) the crystal faces are all at 90° angles. A solid in which the atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in a regular, repeating lattice structure. of calcium fluoride, the Ca2+ and F ions are packed together in the latticeThe points in space that define the ordered, repeating arrangement of atoms, ions, or molecules in a crystal. shown below. Careful study of the diagram shows that each F ion is surrounded by four Ca2+ ions, while each Ca2+ ion has eight F ions as nearest neighbors. Thus there must be twice as many F ions as Ca2+ ions in the entire crystal latticeAn orderly, repeating arrangement of points in 3-D space in which each p;oint has surroundings identical to every other point. A crystal's constituent atoms, molecules, and ions are arranged about each lattice point.. Only a small portion of the lattice is shown, but if it were extended indefinitely in all directions, you could verify the ratio of two F for every Ca2+. This ratio makes sense if you consider that two F ions (each with a –1 charge) are needed to balance the +2 charge of each Ca2+ ion, making the net charge on the crystal zero. The formula for calcium fluoride is thus CaF2.

Newcomers to chemistry often have difficulty in deciding what the formula of an ionic compound will be. A convenient method for doing this is to regard the compound as being formed from its atomsThe smallest particle of an element that can be involved in chemical combination with another element; an atom consists of protons and neutrons in a tiny, very dense nucleus, surrounded by electrons, which occupy most of its volume. and to use Lewis diagrams. The octet ruleThe generalization that atoms tend to gain or lose electrons until there is an octet in the outermost electron shell. can then be applied. Each atom must lose or gain electrons in order to achieve an octet. Furthermore, all electrons lost by one kind of atom must be gained by the other.

A portion of the ionic crystal lattice of fluorite, calcium fluoride. (a) Ca2+ ions (color) and F ions (gray) are shown full size. “Exploded” view shows that each F surrounded by four Ca2+ ions, while each Ca2+ ion is surrounded by eight F ions. The ratio of Ca2+ ions to F ions is thus 4:8 or 1:2, and the formula is CaF2. (Computer-generated). (Copyright © 1976 by W. G. Davies and J. W. Moore.)



EXAMPLE Find the formula of the ionic compound formed from O and Al.


SolutionA mixture of one or more substances dissolved in a solvent to give a homogeneous mixture. We first write down Lewis diagrams for each atom involved:

Image:O and Al.jpg

We now see that each O atom needs 2 electrons to make up an octet, while each Al atom has 3 electrons to donate. In order that the same number of electrons would be donated as accepted, we need 2 Al atoms (2 × 3e donated) and 3 O atoms (3 × 2e accepted). The whole process is then

Image:Ionic compound of O and Al.jpg

The resultant oxide consists of aluminum ions, Al3+, and oxide ions, O2–, in the ratio of 2:3. The formula is Al2O3.



An exception to the octet rule occurs in the case of the three ions having the He 1s2 structure, that is, H, Li+ and Be2+. In these cases two rather than eight electrons are needed in the outermost shell to comply with the rule.