Skip to main content
Chemistry LibreTexts

Steric Strain

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    Steric strain is the increase in potential energy of a molecule due to repulsion between electrons in atoms that are not directly bonded to each other.

    eg: Consider two staggered conformations of 1,2-dibromoethane:


    In 1, the bromine atoms are closer to each other than they are in 2. (in 1, the dihedral angle between the bromine atoms is 60º; in 2, it is 180º.) Thus, the repulsion between electrons in one bromine atom and those in the other is greater in 1 than in 2. Thus, steric strain is greater in 1 than in 2. (Since the bromine atoms are pointing in opposite directions in 2, there is no steric strain in 2 due to interaction between the bromine atoms.)

    see also torsional strain, angle strain, steric hindrance

    Steric Strain is shared under a All Rights Reserved (used with permission) license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Gamini Gunawardena via source content that was edited to conform to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

    • Was this article helpful?