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Question Video: Identifying the Hybridization of Carbon in Butane Chemistry

Butane (C₄H₁₀) has the structural formula shown. What is the hybridization of the C atom in the butane?

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Video Transcript

Butane, C4H10, has the structural formula shown. What is the hybridization of the carbon atom in the butane? (A) sp3, (B) sp, (C) sp2, or (D) sp3d.

Orbital hybridization is the concept of mixing atomic orbitals into new and different types of hybrid orbitals. Carbon atoms have the He 2s2 2p2 electron configuration. And it would be reasonable to assume that the 2s and 2p atomic orbitals have different interactions with covalently bonded hydrogen atoms in molecules like butane, considering their different energies and shapes. But experimental data suggests this is not the case at all.

The 2s and 2p orbitals tend to mathematically combine to form four hybrid sp3 bonding orbitals. They all make equivalent bonds with the 1s orbital electrons of adjacent hydrogen atoms and spread out equally in three-dimensional space. Let’s see how this hybridization will occur.

This is carbon’s valence electron configuration. Carbon has valence electrons in the 2s and 2p atomic orbitals. The first step in orbital hybridization is the promotion of an electron. For carbon, a 2s electron is promoted to an empty 2p orbital, which puts carbon in an excited state. Now, carbon has four unpaired electrons in the 2s and 2p orbitals. These four unpaired electrons in different orbitals are mixed together to create four identical orbitals of the same energy level. These four identical orbitals are neither s orbitals nor p orbitals. They are sp3 hybrid orbitals.

Therefore, option (A), sp3, is the correct answer.

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