Chlorine trifluoride (ClF3) Lewis dot structure, molecular geometry or shape, electron geometry, bond angle, formal charge, hybridization

Home  > Chemistry > ClF3 lewis structure and its molecular geometry/shape

ClF3 lewis structure molecular geometry

Chlorine trifluoride has an appearance like a greenish-yellow liquid or colorless gas with a pungent smell. It is an interhalogen compound. Contact with ClF3 causes suffocation and irritation.

In this article, we will discuss ClF3 lewis structure, molecular geometry or shape, electron geometry, whether is it polar or non-polar, bond angle, hybridization, etc. 

It is used in the semiconductor industry, rocket propellant, and military applications.

Name of MoleculeChlorine trifluoride
Chemical formulaClF3
Molecular geometry of ClF3T-shaped
Electron geometry of ClF3Trigonal bipyramidal
Bond angle175º, 87.5º
NaturePolar molecule
Total Valence electron in ClF328
Overall Formal charge in ClF3Zero

How to draw lewis structure for ClF3?

ClF3 lewis structure comprises three fluorine (F) atoms and one chlorine (Cl) atom. The chlorine (Cl) atom is kept at the central position and the fluorine (F) atoms are in the surrounding position in the lewis diagram. The lewis dot structure of ClF3 contains total of 11 lone pairs and 3 bond pairs.

Follow these steps to draw the stable ClF3 Lewis dot structure.

1. Count total valence electrons in ClF3

In the first step, count all valence electrons present in this molecule. Both chlorine and fluorine belong to the 17th group in the periodic table.

∴ Total valence electrons available for drawing the ClF3 lewis structure = 7 + 7*3 = 28 valence electrons.

total valence electrons in clf3 lewis structure

2. Find the least electronegative atom

Both chlorine and fluorine belong to the same group in the periodic table. And we need to find which atom has less electronegativity.

Fluorine is the most electronegative element in chemistry, so, it always goes outside in the lewis diagram.

Place the chlorine atom at the center in the lewis diagram and fluorine atoms spaced evenly around it.

central atom in clf3 lewis structure

3. Connect outer atoms with the central atom

In this step, we need to connect every outer atom to the central atom with the help of a single bond.

ClF3 skeletal structure

As you see in this structure, we used three single bonds to connect each outer atom to the central atom. So, we used 6 electrons from a total of 28 valence electrons.

∴ (28 – 6) = 22 valence electrons

Now we are left with 22 valence electrons.

4. Complete the octet of outer atoms

The F atoms are the outer atoms in the ClF3. Each F atom requires a total of 8 valence electrons in order to achieve a stable octet electronic configuration.

There are three Cl-F bonds in the ClF3 Lewis diagram drawn till now. This means each F atom already has 2 valence electrons, so it needs 6 more electrons to acquire a complete octet.

Thus, 6 valence electrons are placed as 3 lone pairs around each F atom in the structure, as shown below.

complete the octet of outer atoms in clf3

5. Complete the octet of the central atom 

  • Total valence electrons used till step 4 = 3 single bonds + 3 (electrons placed around each F atom, shown as dots) = 3(2) + 3(6) = 24 valence electrons.
  • Total valence electrons available – electrons used till step 4 = 28 – 24 = 4 valence electrons.

Thus, these 4 valence electrons are placed as 2 lone pairs around the central Cl atom in the ClF3.


ClF3 lewis dot structure

In this way, the central atom chlorine in the ClF3 Lewis structure has a total of 10 valence electrons. It falls under the expanded octet rule. Chlorine (Cl) having d-subshells available can accommodate more than 8 valence electrons during chemical bonding.

As a final step, we just need to check the stability of the above Lewis structure and we can do so by using the formal charge concept.

6. Check the stability of the ClF3 Lewis structure using the formal charge concept

The less the formal charge on the atoms of a molecule, the better the stability of its Lewis structure.

The formal charge can be calculated using the formula given below.


formal charge formula for lewis diagram

  • Formal charge = [ valence electrons – nonbonding electrons- ½ (bonding electrons)]

Now let us count the formal charges present on ClF3 atoms using this formula and the Lewis structure obtained in step 5.

For fluorine atom

  • Valence electrons of fluorine = 7
  • Bonding electrons = 1 single bond = 2 electrons
  • Non-bonding electrons = 3 lone pairs = 6 electrons
  • Formal charge = 7 – 6 – 2/2 = 7 – 6 – 1 = 7 – 7 = 0

For chlorine atom

  • Valence electrons of chlorine = 7
  • Bonding electrons = 3 single bonds = 3(2) = 6 electrons
  • Non-bonding electrons = 2 lone pairs = 2(2) = 4 electrons
  • Formal charge = 7 – 4 – 6/2 = 7 – 4 – 3 = 7 – 7 = 0

Zero formal charges present on all the bonded atoms in the ClF3 molecule mark the stability of its Lewis structure.

ClF3 lewis structure

Also check – 

What are the electron and molecular geometry of ClF3?

The ideal electron geometry of the chlorine trifluoride (ClF3) molecule is trigonal bipyramidal. But it is due to the 2 lone pairs of electrons present on the central chlorine atom that the molecule adopts a different molecular geometry or shape from its electron geometry i.e., T-shaped.

Molecular geometry of ClF3

ClF3 is a T-shaped molecule. Two lone pairs situated on the central chlorine atom in the ClF3 molecule set up a lone pair-lone pair and lone pair-bond pair repulsive effect which distorts the symmetry of the molecule.

Consequently, the molecule (ClF3) adopts an asymmetric T-shape. The 2 lone pairs occupy the equatorial positions while the 3 F-atoms occupy the two axial positions as well as one equatorial position in order to minimize the repulsive effect.

clf3 molecular geometry or shape

Electron geometry of ClF3

There are a total of 5 electron density regions around the central Cl atom in the ClF3 molecule. According to the VSEPR concept, its ideal electron geometry is trigonal bipyramidal.

The electron geometry depends on the total number of electron density regions around the central atom i.e., total electron pairs in this case. It does not take into account whether an electron pair is a bond pair or a lone pair unlike that important for molecular geometry.

clf3 electron geometry

A quick and more straightforward way of finding the electron and molecular geometry or shape of a molecule such as ClF3 is using the AXN method.

AXN is a simple formula to represent the number of atoms bonded to the central atom in a molecule and the number of lone pairs present on it.

It is used to predict the geometry or shape of a molecule using the VSEPR concept.

axn method to find molecular geometry

AXN notation for the ClF3 molecule

  • A in the AXN formula represents the central atom. In ClF3, chlorine (Cl) acts as the central atom so A= Cl.
  • X denotes the atoms bonded to the central atom. 3 F atoms are bonded to the central Cl atom in the ClF3 molecule thus X=3.
  • N stands for the lone pairs present on the central atom. As 2 lone pairs of electrons are present on central chlorine in ClF3 thus N=2.

So, the AXN generic formula for the ClF3 molecule is AX3N2.

Now have a  quick look at the VSEPR chart given below to identify where you find AX3N2.

Clf3 molecular and electron geometry as per vsepr

The VSEPR chart confirms that molecules with an AX3N2 generic formula have a T-shape while their ideal electron geometry is trigonal bipyramidal, as we already noted down for the ClF3 molecule.

Hybridization of ClF3

A short trick for finding the hybridization present in a molecule is to memorize the table given below. You can calculate the steric number of a molecule and use that against this table to determine its hybridization.

Steric numberHybridization

Now we need to find the steric number of ClF3. Use the below Formula to find the steric number of ClF3

  • S.N. = N.A. + L.P.
  • Where S.N. = Steric number
  • N.A. = Number of atoms attached to the central atom
  • L.P. = lone pairs on that central atom

Look at the ClF3 structure, three fluorine atoms are attached to the central atom(Chlorine) and two lone pairs are present on the central atom.

So, S.N. = 3 + 2 = 5

Clf3 steric number for its hybridization

The steric number of central Cl in ClF3 is 5 so it has sp3d hybridization.

The bond angle of ClF3

As the ClF3 central atom has 2 lone pair or 3 bond repulsion units and it formed  T-shaped, Its F—Cl—F involving the axial F atoms bond angle is approx (175º) and F—Cl—F involving the one axial atom and one equatorial bond angle is approx (87.5º).

ClF3 bond angle

Also check:- How to determine bond angle?

Chlorine trifluoride polarity: Is ClF3 polar or non-polar?

Is ClF3 polar or non-polar? ClF3 is a polar molecule because it has an asymmetrical shape and the presence of 2 lone pair electrons leading to an unequal distribution of charge making this molecule polar in nature.

Also check-

Let’s understand in depth why ClF3 is polar in nature with the help of three factors.

Three factors that indicate the polarity of ClF3

1. Electronegativity: 

Electronegativity shows the tendency of an atom to pull electrons to itself. The higher the difference in electronegativity between atoms greater the polarity of that atom.

Clearly, in the ClF3 molecule, Fluorine is more electronegative than chlorine.

The electronegativity value of Chlorine is 3.16 and for fluorine, it is 4. The difference between the electronegativity of Fluorine and chlorine is more than 0.5.

Hence, the bond present in ClF3 is polar in nature.

2. Dipole moment

This is an accurate way to determine whether ClF3 is polar or non-polar. If the molecule has some net dipole moment then that molecule is polar in nature.

The higher the dipole moment of the molecule greater the polarity strength of that molecule.

The dipole moment is induced by the formation of negative and positive charges in the molecule.

ClF3 dipole moment

Dipole moment diagram of ClF3

As you see in the above figure, dipole vector direction towards Fluorine. Because fluorine is more electronegative than Chlorine. Hence it attracts electrons towards itself and develops a partial negative charge.

The partial positive charge was also developed by Chlorine and we know separation of positive and negative charge leads to some dipole moment of the molecule.

So, these dipoles can’t be canceled out. Thus it makes ClF3 a polar molecule in nature.

3. Geometrical or molecular shape:

The geometry of ClF3 has a great influence on its polarity. As we know asymmetrical shape causes to become a molecule polar in nature.

From the lewis structure of ClF3, we know 2 lone pair present on its central atom thus it making the shape of ClF3 bent and causing unequal distribution of charges which induces a permanent dipole between atoms.

Also, the electron geometry of ClF3 is trigonal bipyramidal, and the molecular shape is T-Shaped which is a non-symmetrical shape.

Hence all these factors help to know whether ClF3 is polar or non-polar.


How many lone pairs and bond pairs are in the ClF3 lewis structure?

The chlorine trifluoride (ClF3) molecule has a total of 11 lone pairs. 3 lone pairs are present on each fluorine (F) atom while 2 lone pairs are situated on the central chlorine (Cl) atom, as displayed in the Lewis structure of ClFusing dots (see the figure below).

bond pair and lone pair in clf3 lewis structure

Why Chlorine shared 10 electrons to complete its octet in the ClF3 Lewis structure?

As we know chlorine only needs 8 electrons to complete its octet rule despite this chlorine shares 10 electrons with other atoms and violates the octet rule.

Because Chlorine has an expanded octet in the Lewis structure of ClF3. And fluorine will not take more than 8 electrons as it is already fully stable leaving chlorine with 4 extra electrons.

Hence these extra 4 electrons act as lone pair electrons on Chlorine central atom.

Why molecule geometry of ClF3 is T-shaped?

“ClF3 molecular geometry is said to be T-shaped. It acquires such a shape because of the presence of two lone pairs which take up equatorial positions and there are greater repulsions. There is also an asymmetric charge distribution around the central atom”

Also Read:


  • The hybridization of ClF3 is Sp³d.
  • Two types of bond angles are found in ClF3 – 87.5º and 175º.
  • The molecular geometry or shape of ClF3 is T-shaped. 
  • The total valence electron present available for drawing the ClF3 Lewis structure is 28.
  • The electron geometry of ClF3 is Trigonal bipyramidal.
  • According to the ClF3 Lewis structure, a total of 11 lone pairs and 3 bonded pairs are present in this molecule.
  • ClF3 is polar in nature.
  • The formal charge in the ClF3 lewis structure is zero.
Did you like it?

About the author

topblogtenz author

My name is Vishal Goyal and I am the founder of Topblogtenz. I hold a degree in (Chemical Engineering) and have a strong passion for the life sciences and chemistry. As a highly qualified and experienced chemistry tutor with 4 years of experience, I possess a deep understanding of the unique challenges that students often encounter when attempting self-study in the field of chemistry. I have created this website as a comprehensive resource for those who are seeking guidance and support in their chemistry studies. I have brought together a team of experts, including experienced researchers, professors, and educators, to provide our readers with accurate and engaging information on a wide range of chemistry and science topics. Our goal is to make complex subjects like chemistry accessible and understandable for all. I hope you find the information and resources on our site helpful in your studies. Let's connect through LinkedIn:

Share it...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © 2023 - All rights Reserved

Scroll to Top