Why doesn’t chlorine react as a single atom (Cl) but rather as a diatomic molecule (Cl2)? In other words why can’t chlorine react as a single atom? For example, we write the reaction between sodium and chlorine as Na(s) + Cl2(g)...


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  • $\begingroup$ Because chlorine does not exist as a single atom. $\endgroup$ – Waylander Nov 21 '18 at 9:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Chlorine very much can and does react as a single atom. The problem is that you can't have it as a single atom. $\endgroup$ – Ivan Neretin Nov 21 '18 at 9:51
  • $\begingroup$ Chlorine exists as a diatomic molecule along with 6 other molecules ( Br, I, N, H, O, F). When Na and Cl2 combine, Cl splits away from its diatomic structure to form NaCl . That's why the equation reads: 2Na (s) + Cl2 ---> 2NaCl. For every diatomic molecule of chlorine, 2 molecules of sodium chloride are formed. $\endgroup$ – suse Nov 22 '18 at 0:45

$\ce{Cl2 (g)}$ is the most stable form of chlorine in STP, and as other molecules, it's usual to write it in its most stable form, unless you're analysing non-standard conditions or semi-reactions, where either the ion $\ce{Cl-}$, or one radical, or two radicals $\ce{Cl^.}$ take place in reactions.

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