In chemistry, pi bonds (π bonds) are covalent chemical bonds where two lobes of one involved atomic orbital overlap two lobes of the other involved atomic orbital. Each of these atomic orbitals is zero at a shared nodal plane, passing through the two bonded nuclei. The same plane is also a nodal plane for the molecular orbital of the pi bond.
The Greek letter π in their name refers to p orbitals, since the orbital symmetry of the pi bond is the same as that of the p orbital when seen down the bond axis. P orbitals often engage in this sort of bonding. D orbitals also engage in pi bonding, and form part of the basis for metal-metal multiple bonding.
Pi bonds are usually weaker than sigma bonds; the C-C double bond has a bond energy less than twice the C-C single bond bond energy; which leads to the conclusion that the p orbital overlap to form molecular orbitals is a weaker bond than when s orbitals overlap to form molecular orbitals. From the perspective of quantum mechanics, this bond's weakness is explained by significantly less overlap between the component p-orbitals due to their parallel orientation. This is contrasted by sigma bonds which form bonding orbitals directly between the nuclei of the bonding atoms, resulting in greater overlap and a strong sigma bond.
Pi bonds result from overlap of atomic orbitals that are in contact through two areas of overlap. Pi-bonds are more diffuse bonds than the sigma bonds. Electrons in pi bonds are sometimes referred to as pi electrons. Molecular fragments joined by a pi bond cannot rotate about that bond without breaking the pi bond, because rotation involves destroying the parallel orientation of the constituent p orbitals.
For homonuclear diatomic molecules, bonding π molecular orbitals have only the one nodal plane passing through the bonded atoms, and no nodal planes between the bonded atoms. The corresponding antibonding, or π* ("pi-star") molecular orbital, is defined by the presence of an additional nodal plane between these two bonded atoms.