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Structural isomers have the same molecular formula, but different structural formulas - the connectivity of the atoms is different - as in ethanol and diethyl ether.
Structural isomers are molecules with identical atomic composition, but differ in how the atoms are arranged and bound together. The atoms in a butane molecule, for example, are structured into a straight chain (CH3-CH2-CH2-CH3); a isobutane molecule, an isomer of butane, has a central CH atom to which are bonded three CH3 atoms forming a "T" shape. Structural isomers form straight bonds, unlike the diagonal bounds typical of geometric isomers.
Geometric isomers have the same molecular formula and the same structural formula, but have different spatial arrangements. Two common geometrical isomerisms are cis-trans and chirality (optical activity).
Geometric isomers, or "cis-trans" isomers, are molecules that share identical atomic compositions and molecular bonds but have different spacial organization. Additionally, geometric isomers are incapable of rotating and are restricted to their form. The geometric isomers cis-2-butene and trans-2-butene, for instance, have the identical molecular composition of C4H8. Both isomers feature two methyl groups and a central carbon-carbon double bond. They differ in spatial organization because cis-2-butane molecule features the two methyl groups on the left side of the central carbon-carbon double bond, while the trans-2-butane molecule features the methyl groups on the opposite side. The central carbon-carbon double bond prevents the molecules from rotating, thus the two methyl groups stand no chance of switching sides.
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