ClF3 Lewis structure

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ClF3 Lewis Structure
ClF3 Lewis structure

ClF3 (chlorine trifluoride) has one chlorine atom and three fluorine atoms.

In the ClF3 Lewis structure, there are three single bonds around the chlorine atom, with three fluorine atoms attached to it. Each fluorine atom has three lone pairs, and the chlorine atom has two lone pairs.


To properly draw the ClF3 Lewis structure, follow these steps:

#1 Draw a rough sketch of the structure
#2 Next, indicate lone pairs on the atoms
#3 Indicate formal charges on the atoms, if necessary

Let’s break down each step in more detail.

#1 Draw a rough sketch of the structure

  • First, determine the total number of valence electrons
Periodic table

In the periodic table, both chlorine and fluorine lie in group 17.

Hence, both chlorine and fluorine have seven valence electrons.

Since ClF3 has one chlorine atom and three fluorine atoms, so…

Valence electrons of one chlorine atom = 7 × 1 = 7
Valence electrons of three fluorine atoms = 7 × 3 = 21

And the total valence electrons = 7 + 21 = 28

  • Second, find the total electron pairs

We have a total of 28 valence electrons. And when we divide this value by two, we get the value of total electron pairs.

Total electron pairs = total valence electrons ÷ 2

So the total electron pairs = 28 ÷ 2 = 14

  • Third, determine the central atom

We have to place the least electronegative atom at the center.

Since chlorine is less electronegative than fluorine, assume that the central atom is chlorine.

Therefore, place chlorine in the center and fluorines on either side.

  • And finally, draw the rough sketch
ClF3 Lewis Structure (Step 1)
Rough sketch of ClF3 Lewis structure

#2 Next, indicate lone pairs on the atoms

Here, we have a total of 14 electron pairs. And three Cl — F bonds are already marked. So we have to only mark the remaining eleven electron pairs as lone pairs on the sketch.

Also remember that chlorine is a period 3 element, so it can keep more than 8 electrons in its last shell. And fluorine is a period 2 element, so it can not keep more than 8 electrons in its last shell.

Always start to mark the lone pairs from outside atoms. Here, the outside atoms are fluorines.

So for each fluorine, there are three lone pairs, and for chlorine, there are two lone pairs.

Mark the lone pairs on the sketch as follows:

ClF3 Lewis Structure (Step 2)
Lone pairs marked, and got the stable Lewis structure of ClF3

#3 Indicate formal charges on the atoms, if necessary

Use the following formula to calculate the formal charges on atoms:

Formal charge = valence electrons – nonbonding electrons – ½ bonding electrons

For chlorine atom, formal charge = 7 – 4 – ½ (6) = 0

For each fluorine atom, formal charge = 7 – 6 – ½ (2) = 0

Here, both chlorine and fluorine atoms do not have charges, so no need to mark the charges.

In the above structure, you can see that the central atom (chlorine) forms an octet. And the outside atoms (fluorines) also form an octet. Hence, the octet rule is satisfied.

Therefore, this structure is the stable Lewis structure of ClF3.

Next: Cl2 Lewis structure

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