Antibonding molecular orbital

An antibonding molecular orbital is a type of chemical bond given by the overlap of two half-full molecular orbitals. This kind of bond weakens the chemical bond between two atoms and helps to raise the energy of the molecule relative to the separated atoms. Such an orbital has one or more nodes in the bonding region between the nuclei.

A molecular-bound orbital becomes an anti-bonded orbital when the electron density between the two nuclei is less than what would be if the two nuclei were separated. Antibonding orbitals are labeled with the asterisk (*) in molecular orbital diagrams; they derive from the out-of-phase superposition of wave functions and are characterized by greater energy than the bound orbitals.

Antibonding molecular orbitals (MOs) are normally higher in energy than bonding molecular orbitals. Bonding and antibonding orbitals form when atoms combine into molecules. If two hydrogen atoms are initially far apart, they have identical atomic orbitals. However, as the spacing between the two atoms becomes smaller, the electron wave functions begin to overlap. The Pauli exclusion principle prohibits any two electrons \(e-\) in a molecule from having the same set of quantum numbers. Therefore each original atomic orbital of the isolated atoms (for example, the ground state energy level, 1s) splits into two molecular orbitals belonging to the pair, one lower in energy than the original atomic level and one higher. The orbital which is in a lower energy state than the orbitals of the separate atoms is the bonding orbital, which is more stable and promotes the bonding of the two H atoms into H2. The higher-energy orbital is the antibonding orbital, which is less stable and opposes bonding if it is occupied. In a molecule such as H2, the two electrons normally occupy the lower-energy bonding orbital, so that the molecule is more stable than the separate H atoms.

A molecular orbital becomes antibonding when there is less electron density between the two nuclei than there would be if there were no bonding interaction at all. When a molecular orbital changes sign (from positive to negative) at a nodal plane between two atoms, it is said to be antibonding with respect to those atoms. Antibonding orbitals are often labelled with an asterisk (*) on molecular orbital diagrams.

A molecular orbital becomes antibonding when there is less electron density between the two nuclei than there would be if there were no bonding interaction at all. When a molecular orbital changes sign (from positive to negative) at a nodal plane between two atoms, it is said to be antibonding with respect to those atoms. Antibonding orbitals are often labelled with an asterisk (*) on molecular orbital diagrams.

In homonuclear diatomic molecules, σ* (sigma star) antibonding orbitals have no nodal planes passing through the two nuclei, like sigma bonds, and π* (pi star) orbitals have one nodal plane passing through the two nuclei, like pi bonds. The Pauli exclusion principle dictates that no two electrons in an interacting system may have the same quantum state. If the bonding orbitals are filled, then any additional electrons will occupy antibonding orbitals. This occurs in the He2 molecule, in which both the 1sσ and 1sσ* orbitals are filled. Since the antibonding orbital is more antibonding than the bonding orbital is bonding, the molecule has a higher energy than two separated helium atoms, and it is therefore unstable.