Atomic Orbitals and Periodic Table Relationships

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Atomic Orbitals and Orbital Shapes
7:09 — by Leah F.

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Key Questions

  • Answer:

    There are many types of atomic orbital (#"s, p, d, f, g, h"#, …), but only the first four are occupied in the ground state of an atom.

    Explanation:

    Quantum numbers

    Two quantum numbers determine the type of orbital.

    The principal quantum number, #n#, determines the size of the orbital.

    The secondary quantum number, #l#, determines the shape.

    #"s"# orbitals

    For each value of #n#, there is one orbital for which #l = 0#.

    These orbitals are spheres.

    The higher the value of #n#, the larger the sphere.

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    The spheres like nested shells separated by nodes — areas where there is no electron density.

    #"p"# orbitals

    When #n > 1#, #l# can have any value up to #n"-1"#.

    When #l = 1#, the orbital is called a #"p"# orbital.

    A #"p"# orbital looks like a dumbbell.

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    There are three types of #"p"# orbital.

    Each points in a different direction.

    #"d"# orbitals

    When #n = 3#, we can have orbitals with #l = 2#.

    These are called #"d"# orbitals, and there are five of them.

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    One looks like a dumbbell with a doughnut around the middle.

    The other four #"d"# orbitals look like four-leaf clovers with the leaves pointing in different directions.

    #"f"# orbitals

    When #n = 4#, we can have orbitals with #l = 3#.

    These are called #"f"# orbitals, and there are seven of them.

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    Three of the orbitals look like a dumbbell with two donuts around the middle.

    The other four orbitals look like a bundle of eight balloons tied together and pointing to the corners of a cube.

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