We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Octet Rule?

Jessica Ellis
By
Updated Feb 25, 2024
Our promise to you
AllTheScience is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At AllTheScience, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The octet rule is a basic chemistry rule that allows easy memorization of certain atomic properties. According to this useful rule of thumb, many, if not most, atoms will try to lose or gain electrons to have a total of eight in the external shell. Scientists have found that an atom is most stable with eight electrons in the outer layer, and the atoms appear to try and move toward this equilibrium.

The octet rule popularity is generally attributed to Gilbert Lewis, a Massachusetts-born scientist and professor of the early 20th century. While teaching at Harvard University in 1902, Lewis drew on his own research as well as that of a contemporary, German chemist Richard Albegg, to create a model for the octet rule. The idea had been around for some time, though Lewis was the first to visualize the concept, theorizing that atoms had a concentric cubic structure that had eight corners, thus creating the desire for eight electrons. The term octet rule was popularized by another chemist working on the same concept, a American scientist named Irving Langmuir.

The stability and reactivity of an atom is usually related to the configuration of its electrons. Noble gases, such as neon, argon, krypton, and xenon, tend to have eight electrons on the outer energy layer. Helium is a major exception to the octet rule, having only two electrons. When an atom has eight electrons, it is generally considered stable and will not usually react with other elements. Atoms with fewer than eight electrons are often far more reactive, and will join up or create bonds with other atoms to try and reach the octet level.

Chemists and bewildered students are quick to point out that the octet rule should not really be considered a rule at all, as there are many exceptions to the behavior. This is hardly surprising; as elements are so widely variable in behavior in other cases, it would be extremely unusual for all to subscribe to this interesting rule. Hydrogen, for instance, has only one electron, which prevents it from having enough spaces for seven other electrons to latch on from other atoms. Beryllium and boron, have only two and three electrons, respectively, and similarly could never reach a full octet.

Some atoms, such as sulfur, can actually have more than eight electrons on the outer layer. Sulfur has six electrons, but ordinarily only two are available to bond. Sometimes, an energy absorbing process will occur, causing all six electrons to become excited and available for bonding, making a total of 12 electrons possible on the outer layer.

AllTheScience is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for AllTheScience. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
Read more
AllTheScience, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

AllTheScience, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.