Topic #1: Explain the concept of hybridization as if you were explaining it for the first time
to a person with a limited science background (i.e, a 10 year old child).
For the sake of focus, I will limit my discussion to sp
3
hybridization.
To begin, let's remind ourselves of what we already know about orbitals.
Let's say we have the nucleus of the atom. It's super small, and contains our protons and
neutrons. Around the nucleus, we have our first orbital, called the "1s" orbital. We can view this
orbital as a cloud around the nucleus. In the orbital, it can fit two electrons.
Therefore, the first electron and second electron of an atom will go into this orbital. For example,
hydrogen has only 1 electron, so its electrons will go into the 1s orbital. Meanwhile, helium has
two electrons, so both of its electrons will go into the 1s orbital as well. However, the electrons
of helium will completely fill the 1s orbital.
After the 1s orbital is filled, we will move onto the 2s orbital. For the 2s orbital, we can view it
as like a shell around the 1s orbital. Now, we cannot necessarily think of these orbitals as non-
overlapping areas of space. Rather, these are more like "probability clouds." So yeah, just
imagine the 2s orbital as like a fuzzy shell around the 1s orbital. The third and fourth electrons of
an atom will go into the 2s orbital. (For visualizing the overlapping orbitals, see:
If we keep adding electrons, we will subsequently move onto the 2p orbitals. The 2p orbitals are
different in shape as the 1s and 2s orbitals, because it has three orbitals where each orbital can
hold two electrons. Therefore, the 2p orbitals can hold a total of six electrons. These orbitals are
symmetric and dumbbell shaped, and run along the x, y, and z-axes. Therefore, we can
conceptualize the 2p orbitals as being “2p
x
,” “2p
y
” and “2p
z
.” One electron will go into each of
these orbitals before filling an entire one completely. For example, if our atom has seven
electrons, it will fill the 1s and 2s orbitals, while the fifth electron goes into the 2p
x
orbital, and
the sixth electron will go into the 2p
y
orbital, and the seventh electron will go into the 2p
z
orbital.
If the atom has eight electrons, then the eight will go back and fill the 2p
x
orbital. (For the shape
of p-orbitals, see: http://www2.estrellamountain.edu/faculty/farabee/biobk/orbitals.gif).