HomeScienceChemistryWhat is the difference between Sigma and Pi Bond?

What is the difference between Sigma and Pi Bond?


Chemical bonding is a fundamental concept in chemistry, underpinning the structure and behavior of molecules. Among the various types of bonds that hold atoms together, sigma (σ) and pi (π) bonds are crucial in determining the properties and reactivity of molecules. This article delves into the nature of these bonds, highlighting their formation, characteristics, and significance in molecular chemistry.

Basics of Chemical Bonds

Chemical bonds are the forces that hold atoms together in a molecule. The main types of chemical bonds include ionic, covalent, and metallic bonds. Covalent bonds, which involve the sharing of electron pairs between atoms, can be further classified into sigma (σ) and pi (π) bonds. Understanding these bonds is essential for grasping the intricacies of molecular structure and reactivity.

Sigma (σ) Bonds

  1. Definition and Formation Sigma (σ) bonds are formed by the head-on (axial) overlap of atomic orbitals. This overlap can occur between different types of orbitals, such as s-s, s-p, or p-p orbitals.
  2. Characteristics
    • Sigma bonds represent a single bond between atoms.
    • They are generally stronger than pi (π) bonds due to the direct overlap of orbitals.
    • These bonds allow free rotation around the bond axis, which contributes to the flexibility of molecular structures.
  3. Examples
    • Simple diatomic molecules like hydrogen (H2) and fluorine (F2).
    • Methane (CH4), where each C-H bond is a sigma bond.

Pi (π) Bonds

  1. Definition and Formation Pi (π) bonds are formed by the side-to-side (lateral) overlap of p orbitals. This type of overlap is less effective than the head-on overlap of sigma bonds, resulting in a weaker bond.
  2. Characteristics
    • Pi bonds coexist with sigma bonds in double and triple bonds.
    • They restrict the rotation around the bond axis, creating rigidity in the molecular structure.
    • Pi bonds are weaker than sigma bonds due to the less effective overlap of orbitals.
  3. Examples
    • Oxygen (O2), where the double bond consists of one sigma and one pi bond.
    • Ethylene (C2H4), where the double bond between carbon atoms includes one sigma and one pi bond.

IV. Differences Between Sigma (σ) and Pi (π) Bonds

  1. Formation and Orbital Overlap
    • Sigma bonds are formed by head-on overlap, whereas pi bonds are formed by side-to-side overlap of p orbitals.
  2. Bond Strength
    • Sigma bonds are generally stronger due to the effective overlap of orbitals.
  3. Bond Rotation
    • Sigma bonds allow free rotation around the bond axis, while pi bonds restrict this rotation.
  4. Presence in Molecules
    • Sigma bonds are present in all single bonds; pi bonds are found in double and triple bonds alongside sigma bonds.

Importance in Molecular Geometry and Reactivity

  1. Impact on Molecular Shape and Geometry
    • Sigma and pi bonds play a significant role in determining the shape and geometry of molecules, as explained by the Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion (VSEPR) theory and hybridization concepts.
  2. Influence on Chemical Reactivity
    • The presence of pi bonds in double and triple bonds influences the reactivity of molecules, making them more reactive than single-bonded molecules. Pi bonds are often involved in chemical reactions such as addition reactions in alkenes and alkynes.
  3. Examples of Chemical Reactions
    • Alkenes (compounds with double bonds) undergo addition reactions, where the pi bond is broken, and new sigma bonds are formed.

Comparison Table

Feature Sigma (σ) Bonds Pi (π) Bonds
Formation Head-on overlap of orbitals Side-to-side overlap of p orbitals
Strength Stronger Weaker
Bond Rotation Allows free rotation Restricts rotation
Presence in Molecules Found in all single bonds Found in double and triple bonds
Types of Overlapping Orbitals s-s, s-p, p-p, etc. Typically p-p
Flexibility Provides flexibility in molecular shape Adds rigidity to molecular structure
Examples H2, F2, CH4 O2, N2, C2H4


In summary, sigma (σ) and pi (π) bonds are fundamental to understanding molecular chemistry. Sigma bonds, formed by head-on overlap of orbitals, are stronger and allow free rotation, contributing to molecular flexibility. Pi bonds, formed by side-to-side overlap, are weaker and restrict rotation, adding rigidity to the structure. Recognizing these differences is crucial for predicting molecular behavior and reactivity, which has broad implications in chemistry and related fields.

Summer Leonard
Summer Leonard
Summer Leonard writes about students and school life. She shares practical advice and understanding based on her own experiences. Her writing aims to create a supportive community among students, helping them navigate the challenges of academics. Through simple and thoughtful words, she inspires and guides those on the educational journey.

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