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Seesaw Molecular Geometry

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Last updated date: 23rd May 2024
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Seesaw Molecular Geometry: An Introduction

There are three steps that help in determining the shapes of molecules. The first is to know the Lewis dot structure of the compound which helps in to identify the bond pairs and the lone pairs. The second is to determine the electron geometry from the Lewis dot structure and lastly to determine the molecular geometry. The valence-shell electron-pair repulsion (VSEPR) theory is used to determine the molecular geometry and the electron-group geometry.

Molecular geometry helps in understanding the shape of the molecule by the three-dimensional arrangement of the atoms that make up a molecule. It contains all the geometric parameters which determine the overall shape of the molecule, as well as bond lengths, bond angles, torsional angles, and any other geometrical properties that govern the position of each atom.


What is Seesaw Molecular Geometry?

There are many molecular geometries based on the arrangement of atoms. Seesaw is one of the molecular geometries of an atom. In this type of molecular geometry, the central atom has four bonding groups and one lone pair of electrons on it. This shape got its name because the Bond is observed in the shape of a playground seesaw.


Seesaw Shape

Seesaw-shaped molecules are much rarer than trigonal bi-pyramidal and tetrahedral molecules. A trigonal pyramid is formed when a central atom is attached to five different atoms out of which two are bonded axially and three equatorially with no lone pair. However, in the seesaw model, the central atom is surrounded by four adjacent atoms, two of which are on the same plane (axial) and two of which are below (equatorial) with a lone pair. A single pair of electrons on the central atom causes this shape.

Tetrahedral Geometry


Tetrahedral Geometry


The above image shows the tetrahedral geometry of the molecule which has a bond angle of 109.5 degrees. Four atoms are bonded with the central atom by sigma bonds.


Seesaw Molecular Geometry Bond Angles

The seesaw shape has 5 electron density regions (trigonal bipyramidal), with four bonding pairs and one lone pair. When all of these regions are bonding, the molecule has a 120-degree in trigonal shape and 90-degree angles between the two atoms that make up the "bipyramidal" part of the shape.


In Seesaw molecular geometry where there are four bonds attached to a central atom and one lone pair. When a lone pair is added, it is placed as far away as possible from the bonding pairs due to electron-electron repulsion. A molecule with seesaw molecular geometry has a bond angle of less than 90° and 120°.


Seesaw Molecular Geometry Hybridization

Seesaw appearance in molecular geometry is due to a lone pair of electrons on the central atom. Tellurium tetrachloride, or TeCl4, is an example of a seesaw-shaped molecule. The core element is tellurium, with four chlorine atoms attached to it.


The form of TeCl4 is see-saw-like. Te is sp3d hybridized in the molecule TeCl4 and has four coordination numbers due to its four bonds with chlorine. Because it resembles a seesaw, TeCl4 is considered to be in a seesaw shape. Hence, TeCl4 shows seesaw molecular geometry.


See-saw Structure of TeCl4


See-Saw Structure of TeCl4

The above image shows the see-saw structure of TeCl4. Te is bonded with four chlorine atoms by sigma bonds and one lone pair of electrons is present on Te atom.

Examples of Seesaw Molecules

Some examples of seesaw molecules are Sulphur tetrafluoride (SF4), Selenium tetrafluoride (SeF4), Tellurium tetrafluoride (TeF4), Xenon Dioxide Difluoride (XeO2F2), Sulphur tetrachloride (SCl4), and Tetrafluoroarsanuide (AsF4). In all of these examples, a central atom has four different bonds surrounding and one lone pair which results in the seesaw shape of the molecule. Bond angles in seesaw shape are less than 180 degrees at axial bonds and less than 90 and 120 degrees at an equatorial angle.


The structure of SF4 is given below: The Central S atom has sp3d hybridization. In the below image of the SF4 structure, the central S atom has four fluorine atoms attached to it with one lone pair giving it a seesaw shape.

See-saw Structure of SF4


See-saw Structure of SF4

The above image is the see-saw shape of SF4. The sulphur atom is bonded with four fluorine atoms by sigma bonds and one lone pair is present on the Sulphur atom.


Another example of a seesaw shape is Xenon Dioxide Difluoride. Below is given a structure of a Xenon Dioxide Difluoride where Xe has four atoms attached to it with one lone pair giving it a seesaw shape. Central Xe has sp3d hybridization.

See-saw structure of XeO2F2

See-saw Structure of XeO2F2

The above image is the see-saw structure of XeO2F2. The Xe atom is bonded with two oxygen atoms by a double bond and with two fluorine atoms by single bonds. One lone pair is present on Xe.


Key Features

  • Seesaw molecular geometry has one lone pair and four bonds surrounding the central atom.

  • One lone pair is responsible for the seesaw shape of molecules which got its name from its resemblance to the seesaw in the playground.

  • The seesaw shape forms a bond angle of less than 90 to 120 degrees.

  • Seesaw molecular geometry is polar. Some examples of a seesaw shape are formed by molecules such as SF4, TeCl4, AsF4, etc.

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FAQs on Seesaw Molecular Geometry

1. What is the theory that explains molecular geometry?

The valence shell electron-pair repulsion theory (abbreviated VSEPR) is used to predict molecular geometry. According to the theory, repulsion among the pairs of electrons on a central atom will control the geometry of the molecule.

2. What is the hybridization of trigonal bipyramidal?

Trigonal bipyramidal is formed with sp3d hybridization. This hybridization is a combination of an s orbital, three p orbitals, and a d orbital, which means that five electrons are at work and five bonds are formed from the central atom.

3. What are the types of ligands in a seesaw compound?

Compounds with seesaw geometry have two types of ligands, one pair related by 180° often called axial ligands. A separate pair of ligands is situated orthogonal to the axial ligands. Typically, the bond distance to the apical ligands is longer than to the equatorial ligands.