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How do Atoms Bond?

Find out more about how atoms can combine together to form elements.

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How do Atoms Bond?

Why do atoms connect to one another? There are many different types of bond that will exist between atoms. One of the most common types is a covalent bond - the sharing of electrons. The electrons of an atom exist in orbits, with each orbit holding a certain number.

The orbits and the number of electrons that they can hold are:

  • 1st orbit - 2
  • 2nd orbit - 8
  • 3rd orbit - 8
  • 4th orbit - 18

When an atom's outer electron shell is completely full, it is stable and will not react with other atoms. All of the Noble Gases - Argon, Helium, Xenon, Krypton, Radon, and Neon are inert, and will not naturally react with other elements. Due to this, single atoms of these gases can be found in nature.

Other elements such as Oxygen (O) and Hydrogen (H) are not stable as single atoms. In the picture to the left, the larger Oxygen atom has only 6 electrons in its outer electron shell, needing 2 more to completely fill it.

The 2 smaller Hydrogen atoms both need 1 electron to fill their outer electron shell.

oxygen and hydrogen atoms need extra electrons to become stable

In this picture, the Hydrogen atoms are "sharing" their one electron with the Oxygen atom and the Oxygen atom is sharing one electron to each of the Hydrogen atoms. Now each of the atoms have complete outer electron shells, making this molecule stable.

oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded to form water

Science Experiments

Try these experiments in growing crystals using sugar or salt .

More information

Find out about how atoms join up to form crystals.

Learn more about what atoms are made of.

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