What is Resonance?

In organic chemistry, resonance may be a mental exercise that illustrates the delocalization of electrons inside molecules within the valence bond theory of octet bonding. It entails creating several Lewis structures that, when combined, reflect the molecule's entire electronic structure. One Lewis diagram cannot explain the bonding (lone pair, double bond, octet) elaborately. A hybrid describes a combination of possible resonance structures that represents the entire delocalization of electrons within the molecule.

 In general, molecules with more resonance structures are more stable than ones with less resonance ones. They add more to the stability of a molecule than others - formal charges can help determine this resonance hybrid.

In the valence bond theory of bonding, resonance may be a mental technique, and the instrument won’t describe the delocalization of electrons between molecules. It contrasts and compares two or more Lewis structures which will represent an equivalent molecule. One Lewis diagram for one molecule cannot adequately explain the bonding that occurs between adjacent atoms. In addition to this diagram, a resonance mechanism helps to detectable evidence for the same bond lengths between those atoms,

A resonance hybrid is the total number of true resonance structures in a molecule, and it represents the entire delocalization of electrons within the molecule. A molecule with multiple resonance structures is more stable than one with only one. Molecules with less resonance structures are outperformed by such resonance pathways.

Electron Flow by Curved Arrows (Movement)

The field of organic chemistry has devised a technique for illustrating how electrons travel across resonance structures. It describes the origins of electrons in reactions.  A curved double-barbed arrow shows the path of electrons. The curving arrow's base is at the source of the traveling electrons. The arrow's head is at the electrons' final destination.

It's also crucial to utilize the correct type of arrow on purpose. Chemists employ four different arrows to express the four concepts: complete reaction, equilibrium reaction, electron movement, and resonance forms. Only curved arrows are those indicating electron movements.

Resonance Mechanism

Electrons don't have a hard and fast position in atoms, compounds, or molecules. They're presumed to be present in specific areas (orbitals). Areas with higher odds represent resonance structure types (electron-densities). When there are two or more options available, the term resonance is employed. In resonance mechanisms, the relative positions of the atoms (lone pair) do not shift. The Lewis structure's skeleton remains unchanged; only the electron positions change.

Example: Ozone (O3)


  1. Ozone has a V-shaped structure.
"V-shape Structure"

2. There are six valence electrons in each O atom, for a total of 18 valence electrons.

3. When one bonding pair of electrons is assigned to each oxygen–oxygen link, 14 electrons are left behind.

4. We get three lone pairs of electrons on each terminal oxygen and have two electrons leftover if we deposit three lone pairs of electrons on each terminal oxygen.

"Lone Pair of electrons"

5. Both terminal oxygen atoms contain octets of electrons at this point. As a result, the final two electrons are assigned to the center atom.

"Octets of electrons"

6. There are only 6 electrons in the core oxygen atom. One lone pair on a terminal oxygen atom must be converted to a bonding pair of electrons—but which one? Depending on whatever option we select, we will receive either.

Resonance structures are equivalent Lewis dot structures, such as those seen in ozone. In the multiple resonance structures of a compound, the atoms are in the same place, but the electrons are in different places. Double-headed arrows connect a compound's many resonance structures.

"Multiple resonance structures"

The double-headed arrow implies that the real electronic structure is an average of the two depicted, rather than that the molecule oscillates between the two.

Delocalization and Resonance Structures Rules

The electrons in resonance systems will travel around to assist and stabilize the molecule. Delocalization refers to the passage of electrons.

  • Resonance systems should have an equivalent number of electrons; no electrons should be added or subtracted.
  • The principles for writing Lewis diagrams must be followed by all resonance structures.
  • The structure's hybridization must remain constant.
  • The structure's skeleton can't be altered (just the electrons are in motion).
  • The number of lone pairs during a resonance configuration must be equivalent.

Formal Charge

The formal charge (FC) will vary even though the architectures seem to be similar. FC are the charges given to one atom during the formation of a molecule. Since the oxidation charge of the molecule, if the equations are correct, the whole FC of the molecule can be equal (the charge once you write out the empirical and molecular formula). We want the resonance configuration with the fewest FC that adds up to zero, or the charge of the whole molecule.

Resonance Hybrids

In organic chemistry, resonance structures represent a resonance hybrid, which is the sum of all its resonance structures. The resonance structure with the formal charge closest to zero is the most well-known; additionally, the correct Lewis diagram may have a combination of all the resonance structures and cannot be described as a single structure.

  • Draw the molecule's Lewis structure and resonance (bonds are represented by solid lines).
  • Draw a line for a bond where a double bond or triple bond is feasible.
  • Just draw the lone pairs that appear altogether resonance structures; skip the lone pairs that don't appear altogether resonance structures.

It is important to note that the correct Lewis structure can be a combination of all the resonance structures and hence cannot be expressed solely together.

Rules for Estimating the Stability of Resonance Structures

  • Greater the covalent bonds, the more stable the system is and more atoms will have complete octets.
  • More stable is the structure of the fewest formal charges.
  • The structure with the smallest amount of formal charge distinction is the most robust.
  • The foremost electronegative atom during a configuration with a charge would be more stable.
  • Positive charges on the more electropositive (least electronegative) atom are more stable.
  • Equivalent resonance structure modes have an equivalent level of stability and contribute similarly (e.g. benzene).

Context and Applications

This topic is significant in the professional exams for both undergraduate and graduate courses, especially for Bachelors and Masters in Chemistry.

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