The internal energy change of two atoms undergoing bond formation involves a decrease in electrostatic potential energy. The total energy of the bound molecule, with the atoms separated by the bond distance, is less than the energy of the system with the atoms fully separated. Why is this so?
Imagine bond formation. As electrons within nonbonded atoms form molecular orbitals, the nuclei are drawn inward along the bond axis and internal energy decreases. Try to picture it in your mind. As the bonding electrons form molecular orbitals, their presence in the internuclear space draws the nuclei inward. As the negatively charged electrons in the bonding orbital close distance with the positively charged nuclei on either side, unlike charges are drawing nearer to each other, an electrostatic potential energy decrease.
This is a blended classical/quantum description designed to help you conceptualize bond formation. Most chemical reactions involve the breaking of old bonds (internal energy increase) coinciding with formation of new bonds (internal energy decrease). Whether the system has lost or gained internal energy depends on whether the stronger bonds are the bonds broken or the bonds formed.
Forming a covalent bond is a trip two atoms take down into a potential energy well. How deep is the well? That's how strong the bond is, i.e. how much energy the particle system loses when the bond is formed.
The WikiPremed MCAT Course is a comprehensive course in the undergraduate level general sciences. Undergraduate level physics, chemistry, organic chemistry and biology are presented by this course as a unified whole within a spiraling curriculum. Please read our policies on Privacy and Shipping & Returns. Contact Us. MCAT is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges, which does not endorse the WikiPremed Course. WikiPremed offers the customers of our publications or our teaching services no guarantees regarding eventual performance on the MCAT.
WikiPremed is a trademark of Wisebridge Learning Systems LLC. The work of WikiPremed is published under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike License. There are elements of work here, such as a subset of the images in the archive from WikiPedia, that originated as GNU General Public License works, so take care to follow the unique stipulations of that license in printed reproductions.