How do electron configurations affect properties and trends of a compound?

1 Answer
Mar 19, 2014

The most important consequence of electron configurations is the number of bonds that an atom can form to other atoms.

An oxygen atom has a #2p^4# configuration in the valence shell, which means that two electrons are unpaired, and it can form bonds to two other atoms (e.g., #H_2O#) or two bonds to one other atom (e.g., #O_2#).

Carbon has a #2s^2 2p^2# electron configuration (2 unpaired electrons), and in this configuration it can bind to two other atoms (e.g., #CH_2# radical). But another low-energy configuration, #2s^1 2p^3#, has 4 unpaired electrons and can bind to 4 other atoms (e.g., #CH_4#). which is usually much more energetically favorable.

There are other consequences of electron configurations that lead to specific spectroscopic and magnetic properties, but bonding is the most important.