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Valence Bond Theory vs. Molecular Orbital Theory — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on December 4, 2023
Valence Bond Theory describes molecules by overlapping atomic orbitals, while Molecular Orbital Theory combines atomic orbitals to form molecular orbitals.
Valence Bond Theory vs. Molecular Orbital Theory — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Valence Bond Theory and Molecular Orbital Theory

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Key Differences

Valence Bond Theory and Molecular Orbital Theory are both foundational concepts in understanding molecular structure and behavior. Valence Bond Theory (VBT) posits that a chemical bond results from the overlap of half-filled atomic orbitals from individual atoms. This overlap leads to the pairing of electrons from the participating atoms. Thus, according to Valence Bond Theory, molecules are formed when atomic orbitals come close enough to share electrons.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 04, 2023
Molecular Orbital Theory (MOT), on the other hand, delves deeper into the quantum mechanical nature of molecules. Instead of simply overlapping atomic orbitals, the Molecular Orbital Theory suggests that atomic orbitals merge or combine to produce new orbitals called molecular orbitals. These molecular orbitals span the entire molecule and can be either bonding (where electrons are likely found between the atoms) or antibonding (where electrons are more likely to be found outside the space between the atoms).
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 04, 2023
A noticeable distinction between Valence Bond Theory and Molecular Orbital Theory lies in their descriptions of electron placement. In VBT, electrons remain localized between the two bonding atoms, while in MOT, electrons can exist in orbitals that encompass the entire molecule. This makes MOT better equipped to describe phenomena like delocalized electrons in some molecules.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 04, 2023
Another significant differentiation is in their treatment of molecular shapes. Valence Bond Theory focuses on the hybridization of atomic orbitals to explain molecular shapes, suggesting that atomic orbitals merge to create equivalent hybrid orbitals. In contrast, Molecular Orbital Theory doesn't concern itself with hybridization; it looks at how atomic orbitals combine to form molecular orbitals, which can be bonding or antibonding.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 04, 2023

Comparison Chart

Foundation

Overlapping of atomic orbitals
Combination of atomic orbitals to form molecular orbitals
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 04, 2023
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Electron Placement

Electrons localized between bonding atoms
Electrons can be delocalized across the entire molecule
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Dec 04, 2023

Molecular Shapes

Explains using hybridization of atomic orbitals
Doesn't use hybridization; focuses on formation of molecular orbitals
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Dec 04, 2023

Bonding Description

Describes bonds as overlap of atomic orbitals
Describes bonds based on the formation of bonding molecular orbitals
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Dec 04, 2023

Treatment of Electrons

Electrons are in specific bonds
Electrons exist in molecular orbitals that can span the entire molecule
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Dec 04, 2023

Compare with Definitions

Valence Bond Theory

An approach emphasizing electron pairs between bonding atoms.
The Valence Bond Theory attributes bond strength to the sharing of electron pairs.
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Oct 24, 2023

Molecular Orbital Theory

An approach that describes electrons in orbitals spanning entire molecules.
Through Molecular Orbital Theory, we understand that electrons in N2 are spread over the molecule.
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Oct 24, 2023

Valence Bond Theory

A model focusing on localized electrons in molecules.
Valence Bond Theory views electrons as localized between specific atoms in a molecule.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 24, 2023

Molecular Orbital Theory

A theory wherein atomic orbitals combine to form molecular orbitals.
Molecular Orbital Theory provides insights into the delocalized electrons in benzene.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 24, 2023

Valence Bond Theory

A theory describing molecular bonds via overlapping atomic orbitals.
According to the Valence Bond Theory, hydrogen molecules form due to the overlap of atomic orbitals.
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Oct 24, 2023

Molecular Orbital Theory

A perspective considering the entire molecule for electron distribution.
According to Molecular Orbital Theory, electrons in CO exist in orbitals encompassing both carbon and oxygen.
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Oct 24, 2023

Valence Bond Theory

The concept where atomic orbitals merge to explain molecular shape.
The shape of water is explained through the hybridization concept of Valence Bond Theory.
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Oct 24, 2023

Molecular Orbital Theory

A model representing molecule-wide electron behavior.
Molecular Orbital Theory offers a global view of electron behavior in a molecule.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 24, 2023

Valence Bond Theory

A perspective considering the pairing of atomic electron orbitals.
Valence Bond Theory considers the bond in O2 as a result of paired atomic orbitals.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 24, 2023

Molecular Orbital Theory

The concept visualizing bonding and antibonding molecular orbitals.
Molecular Orbital Theory introduces the idea of antibonding orbitals, which can weaken bonds.
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Oct 24, 2023

Common Curiosities

What unique feature does Molecular Orbital Theory introduce?

It introduces the idea of antibonding molecular orbitals.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 04, 2023

How does Valence Bond Theory explain the shape of molecules?

It uses the hybridization of atomic orbitals.
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Dec 04, 2023

Can Molecular Orbital Theory describe delocalized electrons?

Yes, it's especially adept at describing delocalized electrons.
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Dec 04, 2023

How does Valence Bond Theory describe double and triple bonds?

It uses the concept of pi and sigma overlaps for multiple bonds.
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Dec 04, 2023

What does Valence Bond Theory focus on?

It focuses on the overlapping of atomic orbitals to form bonds.
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Dec 04, 2023

How does Molecular Orbital Theory explain bonds?

It suggests atomic orbitals combine to form molecule-spanning molecular orbitals.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 04, 2023

Is electron delocalization a feature of Valence Bond Theory?

No, Valence Bond Theory describes electrons as localized between atoms.
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Dec 04, 2023

Which theory is more complex to understand?

Molecular Orbital Theory is generally considered more complex due to its quantum mechanical nature.
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Dec 04, 2023

Which theory, Valence Bond or Molecular Orbital, is more modern?

Molecular Orbital Theory is a more modern approach.
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Dec 04, 2023

How does Valence Bond Theory view electrons in a bond?

It sees them as shared pairs between specific atoms.
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Dec 04, 2023

How do the two theories differ in electron treatment?

Valence Bond Theory localizes them between atoms, while Molecular Orbital Theory can distribute them over the molecule.
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Dec 04, 2023

Which theory provides a better understanding of magnetic properties?

Molecular Orbital Theory offers a deeper insight into molecular magnetic properties.
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Dec 04, 2023

Does Molecular Orbital Theory consider bonds individually?

No, it views electron distribution over the entire molecule, rather than focusing on individual bonds.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 04, 2023

Does Molecular Orbital Theory involve hybridization?

No, it doesn't focus on hybridization but on forming molecular orbitals.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 04, 2023

Is Valence Bond Theory still relevant today?

Yes, it's still used, especially for its simplicity in describing certain molecules.
Tayyaba Rehman
Dec 04, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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