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Covalent bonding is stated as overlap of atomic orbitals .In ionic bonding the composite ions are held together by their electrostatic charges that result from the transfer of electrons from one atom to the other. What is exactly meant by "transfer" in terms of orbitals?

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    $\begingroup$ A plot of the expectation value for the electron's wave function would be heavily biased towards one of the two atoms, resulting in a net dipole moment. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 1 '16 at 13:49
  • $\begingroup$ For the ionic form of $\ce{AB}$ viz. $\ce{A^+B^-},$ the wavefunction can be written as $\psi_{\ce{A^+B^-}}(1,2)= \psi_{\ce{B}}(1)\psi_{\ce{B}}(2)\;.$ $\endgroup$
    – user5764
    Apr 1 '16 at 17:24
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The "transfered" electron will be in an orbital that is mostly on the side of only one atom, i.e. the anion. That orbital will be slightly deformed by the presence of the cations around it, but no significant overlap with any of their outer orbitals (those which are as good as empty, because the electron has been lost to the other atom).

(Im writing "mostly" and "as good as" because there can always be a covalent contribution to the bond.)

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