Explain why three ${sp^2}$ hybrid orbitals result when one s atomic orbital is blended with two p atomic orbitals.


When some number of atomic orbitals are mixed together to produce hybrid atomic orbitals, the same number of hybrid atomic orbitals must result. So, when N atomic orbitals are mixed together, N hybrid atomic orbitals are produced. In the case you describe, mixing one s atomic orbital with two p atomic orbitals means that three hybrid atomic orbitals must result.

These three hybrid orbitals will each contain 33.333% s character and 66.666% p character because that is the ratio of the one s orbital to two p orbitals that we are mixing together. We can describe such an orbital as $\ce{s^{33.333}p^{66.666}}$, but if we reduce that notation to the lowest common denominator we get $\ce{s^1p^2}$, or the commonly used description $\ce{sp^2}$. This simply means that this hybrid orbital is composed of one part s character to two parts p character.

To summarize if we mix 3 atomic orbitals, one s and two p orbitals, then 3 $\ce{sp^2}$ atomic hybrid orbitals will result.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.