Trigonal pyramidal molecular geometry

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Trigonal pyramidal molecular geometry
Trigonal pyramidal molecular geometry
Examples NH3, PCl3, XeO3
Point group C3v
Steric number 4
Coordination number 3
Bond angle(s) 107.28°

In chemistry, a trigonal pyramid is a molecular geometry with one atom at the apex and three atoms at the corners of a trigonal base. When all three atoms at the corners are identical, the molecule belongs to point group C3v. Some molecules and ions with trigonal pyramidal geometry are ammonia (NH3), xenon trioxide, XeO3, the chlorate ion, ClO3, and the sulfite ion, SO32−. In organic chemistry, molecules which have a trigonal pyramidal geometry are sometimes described as sp3 hybridized. The AXE method for VSEPR theory states that the classification is AX3E1.

Trigonal pyramidal geometry in ammonia[edit]

The nitrogen in ammonia has 5 valence electrons and bonds with three hydrogen atoms to complete the octet. This would result in the geometry of a regular tetrahedron with each bond angle cos−1(−⅓) ≈ 109.5°. However, the three hydrogen atoms are repelled by the electron lone pair in a way that the geometry is distorted to a trigonal pyramid (regular 3-sided pyramid) with bond angles of 107°. In contrast, boron trifluoride is flat, adopting a trigonal planar geometry because the boron does not have a lone pair of electrons.

In ammonia the trigonal pyramid undergoes rapid nitrogen inversion.[1]

See also[edit]

Phosphine, an example of a molecule with a trigonal pyramidal geometry.


  1. ^ C. E. Cleeton & N. H. Williams, 1934 - Online version; archive. URL last accessed 8 May 2006

External links[edit]