Metals: Weak Covalent Bonding (Metallic Connecting)

Na has one valence electron, which is in the 3s orbital. When two Na atoms bond to form a gaseous Na2 molecule, the two valence electrons (one from each Na atom) are found primarily between the two Na nuclei. To make a crystalline solid, many atoms are packed together in a regular pattern. In metal solids (Figure 2a), the atoms adopt a “closest packed” configuration, in which the atoms are equally spaced, and space between the atoms is minimized. Electrons in diffuse orbitals are not tightly constrained to a small space, and hence the interactions between one Na atom and an adjacent Na atom, or “nearest neighbor,” are weak. At the same time, each atom in a metallic solid has many (up to 12) “nearest neighbors,” i.e., each atom interacts with many other atoms. Thus, although the individual interactions between atoms are weak, there are many interactions, and the aggregate effect is a well-bonded metallic solid. (To illustrate this point, think of how a woven cloth is held together.

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