Homolytic v Heterolytic Cleavage

Key Questions

  • Homolytic cleavage is the breaking of a covalent bond in such a way that each fragment gets one of the shared electrons.

    The word homolytic comes from the Greek homoios, "equal", and lysis, "loosening".

    For example, the homolytic cleavage of a Br-Br bond is


    Homolytic cleavage produces free radicals — atoms with unpaired valence electrons.

  • Bond cleavage is the splitting of a chemical bond.

    There are two types of bond cleavage: homolytic and heterolytic.

    In homolytic cleavage, the two electrons in the bond are divided equally between the products.


    In heterolytic cleavage, one atom gets both of the shared electrons.