# If two atoms "fight over" one electron, who will win? [closed]

If two atoms of different elements are both missing exactly one electron in their valence shell so that they have a charge of +1 and we place an electron between them, exactly in the middle.

Which atom would exert a stronger force on that electron?

• Wouldn't an atom missing an electron have a charge of +1? And I would think this would basically just be a comparison of electronegativity.
– Tyberius
Nov 29, 2017 at 22:56
• @Tyberius Thanks, corrected to +1. would a comparison of electronegativity tell me the force exerted on that electron if it was hypothetically put at exact distance from both of these Atoms's valence shells ? Nov 29, 2017 at 23:05
• This is how Covalent bonds work. In reality, the electron is not really one single object, but a sort of "density of charge". There will be, loosely speaking, bits of charge on both atoms, but probably not in equal amounts. At a lower level of theory, the electron will go to whichever atom has higher electronegativity. Nov 29, 2017 at 23:20
• @iammax I actually arrived with this question after trying to understand why wouldn't two atoms missing exactly one electron have the exact same charge or exerting the exact "pull", regardless of their element Nov 29, 2017 at 23:23
• that one which has the largest attractor Nov 30, 2017 at 0:02

If two atoms of different elements are both missing exactly one electron in their valence shell so that they have a charge of +1 and we place an electron between them, exactly in the middle.

There isn't a nice simple answer to this.

Courtesy of quantum theory we know first and foremost that there's no single outcome possible - any possible result of this could happen in an individual case.

So what could happen is :

• They could all remain apart
• The electron could become bound to just one atom.
• The electron could be shared by both atoms in a bond.

What would be most likely to happen depends on the details. The first option is not very likely in normal conditions, but is possible in more extreme conditions. The middle option is possible as is the third.

There is no convenient formula for working out energy levels in different atoms, molecules or ions so even working out the most likely configuration is not trivial.

Which atom would exert a stronger force on that electron?

This alone doesn't decide what happens because there is more to determining the most stable state that just the electromagnetic forces. But there is an important reason why no one could answer this for you : you haven't even given the names of the ions, let alone important details like the temperature or density of the parts of the system. Even with this info it would be a significant calculation (on a computer) to develop an answer.

There are two related areas for further study :

• So, you are saying that even if one atom has the stronger emf, we would still have no way of being sure it would bound to it ? what about statistically ? Nov 30, 2017 at 4:21
• Yes we do have the way. Give us the atoms, and we'll tell you what will happen. Nov 30, 2017 at 5:20
• @IvanNeretin Any two elements that one is bigger than the other, Let's say Calcium and Magnesium. each missing one electron from it's Valence shell. i thought there would be a simple calculation for the attraction force of each one. Nov 30, 2017 at 5:38
• There is a concept known as effective nuclear charge but it's not a great way to address the problem as it leaves out a lot of effects, but you can read this answer for some more info on that. I believe the molecular hydrogen ion is the only one we have an exact analytic solution for and it's not a simple to work with solution. Nov 30, 2017 at 6:39