Unraveling the Secrets of Nitric Acid (HNO3): A Comprehensive Exploration (2023)


Nitric acid (HNO3) stands as a cornerstone in the realm of chemistry, wielding its significance across various industries. This highly corrosive acid, often a colorless liquid, takes center stage with a molecular formula that beckons exploration. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the intricacies of nitric acid, unraveling its Lewis structure, molecular geometry, and hybridization.

Lewis Structure of Nitric Acid (HNO3)

Nitric acid, with its molecular formula HNO3, orchestrates a dance of electrons, where hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen play key roles. Understanding the Lewis structure is paramount, and the journey begins by scrutinizing the electronic configurations of these elements. Hydrogen with its lone electron, nitrogen with its five, and oxygen with its six, set the stage for a meticulous electron-sharing ballet.

Steps to Lewis Structure

  1. Electron Count: The outer shell houses 24 electrons (1 from H, 5 from N, and 18 from O).
  2. Octet Requirement: A total of 34 electrons are needed for the octet.
  3. Bonding Electrons: Calculated as 34 - 24 = 10.
  4. Number of Bonds: Resulting in 5 bonds.
  5. Lone Pairs: 7 lone pairs, intricately distributed.

The central nitrogen takes the lead in the Lewis structure, forming bonds with two oxygen atoms and an OH ion. This orchestrated arrangement adheres to the octet rule, ensuring stability.

Molecular Geometry of Nitric Acid (HNO3)

The shape of HNO3, akin to a trigonal planar, unfolds through a marriage of Lewis structure and VSEPR theory. The VSEPR theory dictates that electron pairs arrange themselves to minimize repulsion, birthing stable shapes.

Steric Number

Nitrogen, with a steric number of 3, guides the molecular geometry. Oxygen, in the OH ion, boasts a steric number of 4. Following the VSEPR geometry table, HNO3 assumes a trigonal planar shape.

Polarity and Asymmetry

The molecule's lone pair and asymmetrical structure contribute to its polarity, a facet critical to understanding its behavior in various contexts.

Hybridization of the HNO3 Molecule

Hybridization, the art of blending orbitals, forms the backbone of HNO3's molecular architecture. Nitrogen, with an SP2 hybridization, and oxygen, in the OH ion, sporting SP3 hybridization, weave a tapestry of orbitals.

MO Diagram

The MO diagram of HNO3 unveils the intricate dance of sigma and pi bonds. Sigma bonds between N and O atoms find their origin in 2sp2 orbitals of nitrogen and hybrid orbitals of oxygen. Oxygen and hydrogen, in turn, engage in a sigma bond facilitated by 1s and 2sp3 orbitals.


In the grand tapestry of chemistry, HNO3 emerges as a key player, and our exploration into its Lewis structure, molecular geometry, and hybridization unveils its secrets. This knowledge not only enriches our understanding but also equips us to comprehend the shape and properties of this compound in a nuanced manner. As we navigate the depths of chemical intricacies, the significance of nitric acid in various applications becomes even more apparent.

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