I was thinking is there really bond present at microscopic level or atoms/molecules are just nearby and are connected with force which is not visible(like gravitational force between earth and sun) and we make bonds just for understanding.

  • $\begingroup$ electrons exist $\endgroup$
    – Karsten
    Jun 16, 2021 at 23:17

2 Answers 2


enter image description here

All credit to Zhang et al. "Real-Space Identification of Intermolecular Bonding with Atomic Force Microscopy" Science Vol. 342 no. 6158 pp. 611-614.

Yes, direct images of bonds, not only covalent bonds but also intermolecular hydrogen bonds have been recorded.

It is the electron density that is being observed, covalent and hydrogen bonds involving high electron density between the atoms.

Scanning Tunneling Microscopy can also be utilized to directly observe the electron density of bonds.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ ionic bond implies that the electron density stays with the individual ions, and there is electrostatic attraction between the ions, but nothing has purely ionic bonding, there is always some covalent character $\endgroup$
    – DavePhD
    Jan 11, 2015 at 18:07
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Interesting to note that since we can actually observe electron density with nc-AFM, the actual bond-order of said bonds can also be determined in some cases, as shown in "Bond-Order Discrimination by Atomic Force Microscopy" by Gross et al. $\endgroup$ Jan 11, 2015 at 22:22
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    $\begingroup$ I'd be really careful about interpretation of bond order. Consider that even in "simple" molecules like CO, it's hard to define a real bond order. Certainly the work by @DavePhD and cartographer suggest there's increased interatomic electron density. $\endgroup$ Jan 12, 2015 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ Does this work for non planar compounds? $\endgroup$
    – Hans Wurst
    Aug 6, 2023 at 8:41

No I don't think that is possible.

It's all about the attractions (the wanting of a full octet) between the atoms, to be honest we don't even have the technology to view the actual atoms itself (if we do then we are at the initial stages). So these "bonds" that you are talking about are just imaginary connections between atoms so people don't get confused or overwhelmed.

Take an ionic bond, one of the strongest bonds out there, we know it is caused by strong electrostatic attractions between the atoms in which one completely takes an electron or gives it up. If there was like a connection between them it would look almost surreal. It would make more sense if they are beside each other.

Now for the covalent bond, in a covalent bond atoms are sharing electrons, in this case the electron clouds merge, this maybe hard to grasp but that is just how this works. That is why for most covalent bonds we look at the Lewis Structures.

Now take a look at an ionic "bond". Typical Ionic Bond Take a look at the covalent "bond". Typical Covalent Bond

Check out the double and triple "bond". - Bad Image Double Bond

By looking at the above picture you can see that a triple "bond" is just two more electrons.

So in reality to make these drawings of atoms easy, we have came up with a bond. There might be "bonds" but one has to note that they are attractions instead. Here I gave you a couple examples, mostly 2D but if you want to really get the idea you should take a look at the 3D structures that include everything. But you have to also note that we don't know how far our current depictions are true, I just gave you the most plausible ones, so don't believe everything as a fact.

To sum it up: You Will Not See The Bonds (Not the sticks and ball kind). Though you may see the attractions.

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    $\begingroup$ Bonds of the stick and ball kind are an extreme simplification, the "real thing" are molecular orbitals, and those can be seen in STM microscopy & co. $\endgroup$ Jan 12, 2015 at 10:13

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