Why can higher energy levels accommodate more electrons?

1 Answer
Jun 10, 2015

Because higher energy levels contain more orbitals.


As you know, the maximum number of electrons that a shell can hold is given by the formula

#"no. electrons" = 2n^(2)#, where

#n# - the energy level.

Electrons that surround a nucleus can be found in orbitals, with each orbital having a maximum capacity of 2 electrons. You can determine the number of orbitals an energy level has by using this formula

#"no. orbitals" = (2n^(2))/2 = n^2#

This tells you that higher energy levels have more orbitals available for electrons to occupy. The first energy level only has 1 orbital, so its capacity is limited to 2 electrons.

The second energy level has a total of #2^2 = 4# orbitals ,so it can hold up to 8 electrons.

The third energy level has a total of #3^2=9# orbitals, so its capacity is 18 electrons.

The fourth energy level has a total of #4^2 = 16# orbitals, so its capacity is 32 electrons.

So, as a conclusion, higher energy levels can support more orbitals, which in turn means that they can hold more electrons.