Author JD Lee says in his book, Inorganic Chemistry

The dipole moment of $\ce{XeF6}$ is approximately = $0$ because the lone pair is present in the stereochemically inactive s orbital.

What is this stereochemically inactive s orbital? What does the statement mean?

PS: Please don't provide links to any web pages as I have gone crazy by the definitions they provide and also please try to explain it in an easy language and not some very technical chemistry as I am not an expert.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well, it means it doesn't affect stereochemistry of compound; it's shape is almost unaffected by it's presence. $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Commented Sep 17, 2016 at 20:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ S-orbital is spherical in shape , so any particular direction is not favoured, hence stereochemically inactive. $\endgroup$
    – JM97
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ Why are we closing the old question as a duplicate of the new question? (@Mithoron) $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 10:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Jan Ortho seems keen on making new better ones... $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 21:20

1 Answer 1


An s-orbital is basically a pretty perfect sphere around the nucleus.

A sphere transforms upon itself no matter which element of symmetry you use. Thus, it cannot be the basis of any kind of chirality or other asymmetry.

If therefore the s-orbital is the only one that carries free electrons able to generate a dipole moment, none will be formed because it would be spherical.

(I know this answer bases quite a bit on circular — or should I say: spherical? — reasoning, but I wouldn’t know how else to write it …)


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