What are some common mistakes students make with orbitals?

Jul 9, 2018

Well, I suppose it would be the following...

Two common mistakes would be:

• Not knowing which orbitals physically exist AND why they do not.
• Forgetting the difference between orbitals and subshells.

So, consider the following examples.

1. Recall that the principal quantum number $n = 1 , 2 , 3 , . . .$ and the angular momentum quantum number $l = 0 , 1 , 2 , . . . , \underline{n - 1}$.

Therefore, it follows that if $n$ is some integer, then $l$ can be no greater than $n$, i.e. $1 p$, $2 d$, and $3 f$ orbitals do not exist, etc. because for these, it is NOT the case that $l < n$, while it must be.

2. Or, we distinguish between the fact that if you have a set of $d$ orbitals, it does not mean that $10$ electrons can go into one orbital...

But it DOES mean that you can have $10$ electrons total in that subshell, as there can be $2$ electrons per $d$ orbital, of which there are $5$.