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Unlocking the Mysteries of CHCl3: A Guide to Its Structure and Properties

Unlocking the Secrets of the CHCl3 Molecule A Comprehensive Guide

The CHCl3 molecule, commonly known as chloroform, is a colorless, dense liquid with a pleasant sweet smell. Let’s take a deep dive into its Lewis structure, resonance and formal charge, shape and hybridization to better understand the properties of this unique molecule.

Drawing the Lewis Structure

The first step in understanding the structure of CHCl3 is to create its Lewis structure. The molecule has four atoms: one carbon atom bonded with three hydrogen atoms and one chlorine atom.

Carbon is the central atom, and it has four valence electrons. Hydrogen has one valence electron, while chlorine has seven.

To begin the process, we place one chlorine atom on the left and three hydrogen atoms on the right, all singly bonded with carbon in the center. Carbon forms double bonds with two of the chlorine atoms, leaving only one electron pair on each of those atoms.

Therefore, we add two lone pairs to each chlorine atom. Finally, we account for all valence electrons by placing a lone pair on the carbon atom.

Overall, the Lewis structure shows that CHCl3 has one carbon atom, three hydrogen atoms, and one chlorine atom. Furthermore, carbon has an octet, while each chlorine atom has an expanded octet.

Resonance and Formal Charge

We can use formal charge to determine the most plausible Lewis structure and the best resonance structure for CHCl3. Formal charge is a method of assessing the likely distribution of electrons in a given molecule.

It evaluates the number of electrons owned by an atom in comparison to their number of valence electrons. The formal charge of an atom is calculated using the formula:

formal charge = valence electrons – nonbonding electrons – 1/2 bonding electrons

After applying this rule to each atom in the molecule, we obtain the following:

Carbon: 4 – 2 – 1/2(6) = 0

Hydrogen: 1 – 0 – 1/2(2) = 0

Chlorine (single bond): 7 – 4 – 1/2(2) = 0

Chlorine (double bond): 7 – 6 – 1/2(4) = 0.5

By adding up all the formal charges, we get zero the net charge of the molecule.

We can also use formal charges to determine the best resonance structure, which is necessary in molecules like CHCl3, where more than one valid Lewis structure is possible. The most plausible structure is the one with the lowest sum of formal charges.

The other structures are classified as resonance structures. In the case of CHCl3, the best resonance structure involves the double bond between the carbon and chlorine atoms being shifted to the other two chlorine atoms, so that each chlorine shares an equal amount of double bond character.

This optimizes the formal charges and minimizes the charges on each atom.

Shape and Hybridization

VSEPR Theory and Molecular Geometry

In order to determine the shape of CHCl3, we must apply the rules of the Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion (VSEPR) Theory. According to this theory, electron pairs in the valence shell of an atom repel one another and tend to stay as far apart as possible.

To determine the shape of CHCl3, we count the total number of electron pairs surrounding the central carbon atom, including both bonding and lone pairs. Then, we use this information to define the molecular geometry.

In the case of CHCl3, there are four electron pairs around the central carbon atom, which means its molecular geometry is tetrahedral. It implies that the bond angles are all 109.5 degrees.

Hybridization and Steric Number

Next, we can use the molecular geometry information to infer the hybridization of the central carbon atom. The carbon atom undergoes tetrahedral hybridization, which means it forms four new orbitals that are a hybrid of the s and p orbitals.

Each of the four orbitals, known as sp3 orbitals, is equivalent in shape, energy, and spatial orientation. The steric number, which is equal to the sum of the number of atoms bonded to the central atom and the number of lone pairs on it, is also four in this case.

This value confirms that CHCl3 is sp3 hybridized.


In conclusion, we have explored the nature of CHCl3, also known as chloroform, in terms of its Lewis structure, resonance and formal charge, and shape and hybridization. Our discussion has helped shed light on the intriguing properties of this commonly used chemical.

Understanding the different aspects of CHCl3 is crucial in various scientific fields, such as chemistry and biology. Armed with this knowledge, we are better equipped to appreciate and harness the power of CHCl3 safely and responsibly.

Other Important Facts about CHCl3

In addition to its structural and hybridization properties discussed earlier, understanding the polarity, solubility, acid strength, and physical properties of CHCl3 is crucial in a wide range of scientific applications.

Polarity and Solubility

CHCl3 has a polar molecule due to the bond between carbon and chlorine being polar. Since the bond’s polarities in chloroform do not cancel each other out, the molecule as a whole has a dipole moment, making it polar.

The polarity of CHCl3 has important implications on its solubility. It is sparingly soluble in water, with a solubility of around 1.3 grams per liter at room temperature.

This low solubility arises from the polar nature of water and the nonpolar nature of the CHCl3 molecule. However, it is highly soluble in various organic solvents, such as ether, benzene, and toluene, which also have a nonpolar nature.

This solubility occurs because like dissolves like, meaning that polar solutes can only dissolve in polar solvents, and nonpolar solutes can only dissolve in nonpolar solvents. The solubility of CHCl3 depends on the solvent’s dielectric constant.

The dielectric constant is a measure of a solvent’s ability to reduce electrostatic forces between dissolved particles. The higher the solvent’s dielectric constant, the more soluble is CHCl3 in the solvent.

Solvents with high dielectric constants, such as water, methanol, and ethanol, are polar, while solvents with low dielectric constants, such as benzene, are nonpolar.

Acid Strength and Back-Bonding

CHCl3 is a weak lewis acid and has a low acid strength due to its non-availability of hydrogen atom. A lewis acid is a chemical species that can accept an electron pair from a lewis base during the chemical reaction.

In CHCl3, the unshared electron pairs on chlorine atoms can function as lewis bases and accept electron pairs from other lewis acids. Back-bonding is another fascinating aspect of CHCl3’s chemistry.

During this process, the partially empty d-orbitals of the chlorine atoms function as lewis bases and accept electron density from the filled p-orbitals of the carbon. Since carbon has a smaller electronegativity than chlorine, it is electron-deficient and acts as a lewis acid.

This process leads to the formation of a coordinate covalent bond between the carbon atom and the chlorine atom. The back-bonding’s ability of CHCl3 enhances its acid strength during certain chemical processes.

The conjugate base of CHCl3 is the trichloromethide anion (CCl3-), which can deprotonate or remove an H+ from the CHCl3 molecule to form the anion. Due to the conjugate base’s weak basicity, CHCl3 is not an excellent proton acceptor or a good donor in many chemical applications.

It is useful for the preparation of many organic compounds, as it is a useful reagent.

Physical Properties

CHCl3 is a colorless liquid at room temperature and has a boiling point of 61.2C. It has a sweet, strong smell, which can be toxic and harmful.

It is mildly dense, and its density is 1.483 g/mL. One of the primary uses of CHCl3 in medicine is as an anesthetic.

However, since it has a narrow therapeutic index, it can cause respiratory depression or even death if used carelessly. Additionally, it produces a feeling of lightheadedness and euphoria in small doses and can cause unconsciousness and chemical pneumonia in larger doses.

Due to its toxic nature and potential health hazards, chloroform has been phased out of many domestic and industrial applications. However, it remains essential in certain applications, such as the manufacture of dyes and pharmaceuticals.


The physical, chemical, and structural properties of chloroform or CHCl3 have been discussed in detail in this article. The polarity and solubility of CHCl3, its weak acid strength and back-bonding properties, and its physical properties are essential parameters needed in several scientific applications.

Understanding these properties of CHCl3s chemical form is essential in using this versatile chemical safely and effectively in various scientific applications. In conclusion, understanding the properties of CHCl3 is essential in its safe and effective use in various scientific applications.

Its Lewis Structure, resonance and formal charge, shape and hybridization, polarity, solubility, acid strength, back-bonding, and physical properties all combine to make it an intriguing and versatile chemical. Its potential dangers and toxicity have led to its reduced usage but it remains an important reagent in several industries.

It is imperative to use it safely given its narrow therapeutic index. Understanding the properties of CHCl3 highlights the importance of safety in scientific research and experimentation.


Q: Is CHCl3 polar or nonpolar? A: CHCl3 is polar due to the bond between carbon and chlorine, which is polar.

Q: Is CHCl3 soluble in water? A: CHCl3 is sparingly soluble in water but highly soluble in organic solvents such as ether, benzene, and toluene.

Q: What is the acid strength of CHCl3? A: CHCl3 is a weak lewis acid and has a low acid strength.

Q: What is back-bonding in CHCl3? A: Back-bonding occurs when the partially empty d-orbitals of the chlorine atoms function as lewis bases and accept electron density from the filled p-orbitals of the carbon.

Q: What are the physical properties of CHCl3? A: CHCl3 is a colorless liquid with a boiling point of 61.2C, a density of 1.483 g/mL, and a sweet, strong smell that can be toxic and harmful.

Q: What are the dangers of CHCl3? A: CHCl3 has a narrow therapeutic index and can cause respiratory depression, unconsciousness, or even death if not used carefully.

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