The type of bonding can be explained in terms of orbital hybridization. In ethylene each carbon atom has three sp2 orbitals and one p-orbital. The three sp2 orbitals lie in a plane with ~120° angles. The p-orbital is perpendicular to this plane. When the carbon atoms approach each other, two of the sp2 orbitals overlap to form a sigma bond. At the same time, the two p-orbitals approach (again in the same plane) and together they form a pi-bond. For maximum overlap, the p-orbitals have to remain parallel, and, therefore, rotation around the central bond is not possible. This property gives rise to cis-trans isomerism. Double bonds are shorter than single bonds because p-orbital overlap is maximized.
2 sp2 orbitals (total of 3 such orbitals) approach to form a sp2-sp2 sigma bond
Two p-orbitals overlap to form a pi-bond in a plane parallel to the sigma plane
With 133 pm, the C=Cbond length is shorter than the C−C length in ethane with 154 pm. The double bond is also stronger, 636 (KJ/mol) versus 368 kJ/mole but not twice as much as the pi-bond is weaker than the sigma bond due to less effective pi-overlap.
In an alternative representation, the double bond results from two overlapping sp3 orbitals as in a bent bond.
Double bonded compounds, alkene homologs, R2E=ER2 are now known for all of the heavier group 14 elements. Unlike the alkenes these compounds are not planar but adopt twisted and/or trans bent structures. These effects become more pronounced for the heavier elements. The distannene (Me3Si)2CHSn=SnCH(SiMe3)2 has a tin-tin bond length just a little shorter than a single bond, a trans bent structure with pyramidal coordination at each tin atom, and readily dissociates in solution to form (Me3Si)2CHSn: (stannanediyl, a carbene analog). The bonding comprises two weak donor acceptor bonds, the lone pair on each tin atom overlapping with the empty p orbital on the other. In contrast, in disilenes each silicon atom has planar coordination but the substituents are twisted so that the molecule as a whole is not planar. In diplumbenes the Pb=Pb bond length can be longer than that of many corresponding single bonds Plumbenes and stannenes generally dissociate in solution into monomers with bond enthalpies that are just a fraction of the corresponding single bonds. Some double bonds plumbenes and stannenes are similar in strength to hydrogen bonds. The Carter-Goddard-Malrieu-Trinquier model can be used to predict the nature of the bonding.