In chemistry, a tetravalence is the state of an atom with four electrons available for covalent chemical bonding in its valence (outermost electron shell). An example is methane (CH4): the tetravalent carbon atom forms a covalent bond with four hydrogen atoms. The carbon atom is called tetravalent because it forms 4 covalent bonds. A carbon atom has a total of six electrons occupying the first two shells, i.e., the K-shell has two electrons and the L-shell has four electrons. This distribution indicates that in the outermost shell there are one completely filled 's' orbital and two half-filled 'p' orbitals, showing carbon to be a divalent atom. But in actuality, carbon displays tetravalency in the combined state. Therefore, a carbon atom has four valence electrons. It could gain four electrons to form the C4− anion or lose four electrons to form the C4+ cation. Both these conditions would take carbon far away from achieving stability by the octet rule. To overcome this problem carbon undergoes bonding by sharing its valence electrons. This allows it to be covalently bonded to one, two, three or four carbon atoms or atoms of other elements or groups of atoms. Let us see how carbon forms the single, double and triple bonds in the following examples.
The carbon atom is assumed to be atomic the center of the tetrahedron. In common use, the four valences of carbon are shown by four bonds around a carbon atom as shown alongside
Methane molecule: Each carbon atom has four electrons in its outermost shell. Thus, it requires four more electrons to acquire a stable noble gas configuration. Each of the hydrogen atoms has only one electron in its outermost shell and requires one more electron to complete its outermost shell (to acquire He configuration). To achieve this, one carbon atom forms four single covalent bonds with four hydrogen atoms.