# Difference Between Electron Geometry and Molecular Geometry

Electron geometry and molecular geometry are two concepts that are important in the field of chemistry. These concepts are related to the arrangement of atoms in a molecule and the distribution of electrons around those atoms. Although these terms sound similar, there are fundamental differences between them that are important to understand.

## What is Electron Geometry?

The term electron geometry refers to the name of the geometry of the electron pair/groups/domains on the central atom, whether they are bonding electrons or non-bonding electrons. Electron pairs are defined as electrons in pairs or bonds, lone pairs, or sometimes a single unpaired electron. Because electrons are always in constant motion and their paths cannot be precisely defined, the arrangement of the electrons in a molecule is described in terms of an electron density distribution.

Let’s take an example of methane, the chemical formula of which is CH4. Here, the central atom is carbon with 4 valence electrons and 4 hydrogen share electrons with 1 carbon to form 4 covalent bonds. This means there are a total of 8 electrons around carbon and there are no single bonds, so the number of lone pairs here is 0. It suggests CH4 is tetrahedral geometry.

## What is Molecular Geometry?

Molecular geometry is used to determine the shape of a molecule. It simply refers to the three- dimensional arrangement or structure of atoms in a molecule. Understanding the molecular geometry of a compound helps determine the reactivity, polarity, color, phase of matter, and magnetism.

The geometry of a molecule is usually described in terms of bond lengths, bond angles, and torsional angles. For small molecules, the molecular formula and a table of standard bond lengths and angles may be all that is required to determine the geometry of the molecule. Unlike electron geometry, it is predicted by considering only electron pairs. Let’s take an example of water (H2O). Here, oxygen (O) is the central atom with 6 valence electrons so it requires 2 more electrons from 2 hydrogen atoms to complete its octet. So there are 4 electron groups arranged in a tetrahedral shape. There are also 2 single bond pairs, so the resulting shape is bent.

## Differences: Electron Geometry and Molecular Geometry

One of the key differences between electron geometry and molecular geometry is that electron geometry is determined solely by the number of electron pairs around the central atom, whereas molecular geometry takes into account the actual positions of the atoms in the molecule. For example, consider the molecule CH4, which has a tetrahedral electron geometry (because there are four bonding electron pairs around the central carbon atom). However, the molecular geometry of CH4 is also tetrahedral, because the four hydrogen atoms are arranged symmetrically around the carbon atom, with bond angles of 109.5 degrees.

Another difference between electron geometry and molecular geometry is that electron geometry can sometimes be different from the molecular geometry. This occurs when there are non- bonding electron pairs present around the central atom. Non-bonding electron pairs exert a stronger repulsive force than bonding electron pairs, which can cause the molecular geometry to deviate from the electron geometry. For example, consider the molecule NH3, which has a tetrahedral electron geometry (because there are four electron pairs around the central nitrogen atom). However, the molecular geometry of NH3 is trigonal pyramidal, because the lone pair of electrons on the nitrogen atom exerts a stronger repulsive force than the three bonding pairs.

A final difference between electron geometry and molecular geometry is that electron geometry is primarily used to predict the molecular geometry of a molecule. By knowing the electron geometry of a molecule, one can predict the angles between the bonds and the shape of the molecule. This information is crucial in understanding the physical and chemical properties of the molecule. In contrast, molecular geometry is used to describe the actual shape of the molecule and is crucial in understanding how the molecule interacts with other molecules in chemical reactions.

The following table highlights the major differences between Electron Geometry and Molecular Geometry −

Characteristics

Electron Geometry

Molecular Geometry

Terminology

The term "electron geometry" refers to the name of the geometry of the electron pair/groups/domains on the central atom, whether they are bonding electrons or non-bonding electrons. It helps understand how different electron groups are arranged in a molecule.

Molecular geometry, on the other hand, determines the shape of a molecule and it is the three- dimensional structure of atoms in a molecule. It helps understand the entire atom and its arrangement.

Examples

One of the many examples of tetrahedral electron geometry is Ammonia (NH3). The central atom here is N and four electron pairs are distributed in the shape of a tetrahedron with only one lone electron pair. Thus, the electron geometry of NH3 is tetrahedral.

However, its molecular geometry is trigonal pyramidal because the bond angles are 107 degrees as the hydrogen atoms are repelled by the lone pair of electrons around nitrogen.

Similarly, the molecular geometry of water (H2O) is bent because there are 2 single bond pairs.

## Conclusion

In conclusion, electron geometry and molecular geometry are two important concepts in chemistry that are related to the arrangement of atoms and electrons in a molecule. Electron geometry describes the arrangement of electrons around the central atom, whereas molecular geometry describes the actual three-dimensional arrangement of atoms in a molecule.

Updated on: 12-May-2023

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