Covalent radius

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The covalent radius, rcov, is a measure of the size of an atom that forms part of one covalent bond.

The covalent radius is usually measured either in picometres (pm) or angstroms (Å), with 1 Å = 100 pm.

In principle, the sum of the two co equal the covalent bond length between two atoms, R(AB) = r(A) + r(B). Moreover, different radii can be introduced for single, double and triple bonds (r1, r2 and r3 below), in a purely operational sense. These relationships are certainly not exact because the size of an atom is not constant but depends on its chemical environment. For heteroatomic A–B bonds, ionic terms may enter. Often the polar covalent bonds are shorter than would be expected on the basis of the sum of covalent radii. Tabulated values of covalent radii are either average or idealized values, which nevertheless show a certain transferability between different situations, which makes them useful.


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