# CNO- Lewis structure

CNO (fulminate) has one carbon atom, one nitrogen atom, and one oxygen atom.

In the CNO Lewis structure, there is a triple bond between nitrogen and carbon atom, and a single bond between nitrogen and oxygen atom. The carbon atom has one lone pair, and the oxygen atom has three lone pairs.

Also, there is a negative (-1) charge on the carbon atom and the oxygen atom, and a positive (+1) charge on the nitrogen atom.

Contents

## Steps

To properly draw the CNO 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
#4 Minimize formal charges by converting lone pairs of the atoms
#5 Repeat step 4 if necessary, until all charges are minimized

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

In the periodic table, carbon lies in group 14, nitrogen lies in group 15, and oxygen lies in group 16.

Hence, carbon has four valence electrons, nitrogen has five valence electrons, and oxygen has six valence electrons.

Since CNO has one carbon atom, one nitrogen atom, and one oxygen atom, so…

Valence electrons of one carbon atom = 4 × 1 = 4
Valence electrons of one nitrogen atom = 5 × 1 = 5
Valence electrons of one oxygen atom = 6 × 1 = 6

Now the CNO has a negative (-1) charge, so we have to add one more electron.

So the total valence electrons = 4 + 5 + 6 + 1 = 16

• Second, find the total electron pairs

We have a total of 16 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 = 16 ÷ 2 = 8

• Third, determine the central atom

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

Since carbon is less electronegative than nitrogen and oxygen, the central atom should be carbon, right?

But if we place carbon in the center and nitrogen and oxygen outside, then it will become OCN (cyanate), which is a different compound.

So here, we have to choose the central atom from nitrogen and oxygen.

Since nitrogen is less electronegative than oxygen, assume that the central atom is nitrogen.

Therefore, place nitrogen in the center and carbon and oxygen on either side.

• And finally, draw the rough sketch

### #2 Next, indicate lone pairs on the atoms

Here, we have a total of 8 electron pairs. And two bonds are already marked. So we have to only mark the remaining six electron pairs as lone pairs on the sketch.

Also remember that all three (carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen) are the period 2 elements, so they can not keep more than 8 electrons in their last shell.

Always start to mark the lone pairs from outside atoms. Here, the outside atoms are carbon and oxygen.

So for carbon and oxygen, there are three lone pairs, and for nitrogen, there is zero lone pair because all six electron pairs are over.

Mark the lone pairs on the sketch as follows:

### #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 carbon atom, formal charge = 4 – 6 – ½ (2) = -3

For nitrogen atom, formal charge = 5 – 0 – ½ (4) = +3

For oxygen atom, formal charge = 6 – 6 – ½ (2) = -1

Here, all three atoms have charges, so mark them on the sketch as follows:

The above structure is not a stable Lewis structure because all three atoms have charges. Therefore, reduce the charges (as below) by converting lone pairs to bonds.

### #4 Minimize formal charges by converting lone pairs of the atoms

Here we have to convert a lone pair of the carbon atom (instead of the oxygen atom). Because carbon is less electronegative than oxygen. And so, it can give more valence electrons to share them.

Or remember this way, in CNO and similar type structures, we have to make sure that the negative charge comes on the most electronegative element. In this case, the most electronegative element is oxygen.

Therefore, convert a lone pair of the carbon atom to make a new C — N bond with the nitrogen atom as follows:

### #5 Repeat step 4 (minimize charges again)

Since there are charges on the atoms, again convert a lone pair of the carbon atom to make a new C — N bond with the nitrogen atom as follows:

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

Now there is still a negative (-1) charge on the carbon atom and the oxygen atom, and a positive (+1) charge on the nitrogen atom.

This is okay, because the structure with a negative charge on the most electronegative atom is the best Lewis structure. And in this case, the most electronegative element is oxygen.

Also, the above structure is more stable than the previous structures. Therefore, this structure is the most stable Lewis structure of CNO.

And since the CNO has a negative (-1) charge, mention that charge on the Lewis structure by drawing brackets as follows: