The strength of a covalent bond is the result of the combined strengths of its electrons. This combined strength makes it possible for covalent compounds to be either brittle or malleable depending on their molecular structure.
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Are covalent compounds brittle or malleable?
The answer to this question is both. Covalent compounds can be brittle and malleable, depending on the type of molecule in which they are found.
For example, when covalent compounds are found in a diamond or graphite crystal, they are very hard and rigid because these crystals have strong intermolecular forces between their atoms.
On the other hand, covalent compounds such as hydrocarbons (oil) and water vapor are typically very malleable due to weaker interactions between molecules of these substances.
Brittle covalent compounds contain a high degree of directional bonding, which means they only have areas of strong interactions.
In these types of substances, these areas are usually organized into repeating patterns that make them appear as if they are crystals or rigid solids. In the laboratory, brittle covalent substances such as silicon dioxide (silica) and calcium fluoride (fluorspar) will break into sharp, irregular pieces when they are struck against a hard surface.
Malleable covalent substances, on the other hand, have a lower degree of directional bonding. This means that their molecules are able to move past each other more easily and that they do not have strong areas of interaction.
In these types of substances, the molecules are usually found in clusters or can be stretched into thin films. In the laboratory, malleable covalent substances such as hydrocarbons and water vapor will flow when they are placed in a container and will not break into sharp pieces when struck against a hard surface.