Atoms,orbits and my problem

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In summary, the problem is that the electron loses energy when it moves around the nucleus. This is because the laws of electromagnetism predict that it will emit radiation (heat/light), losing kinetic energy and slowing down. However, Bohr's model assumed that the electrons only had limited 'allowed' orbits, corresponding to energy (angular momentum) levels proportional to 1/(n^2). From this, he was able to correctly predict the approximate radius of the hydrogen atom (now known as the 'Bohr radius'), and also (approximately) explain the hydrogen atom spectrum - the spectral lines corresponded to photons who's energy difference was equal to the
  • #1
I am a student of the 9th standard...My main question is that-we know the nucleus has positive charge and the electrons have negative charge.Moreover opposite charges attract, but in that case then the electrons should be merged with the nucleus itself and not be revolving in the imaginary orbits.So why does this happen?I would be really glad if someone helpso.
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  • #2
Well, that's a problem that occupied some of the world's leading physicists between 1910-1930, essentially as soon as they'd figured out that atoms were made out of negatively-charged electrons and a positively-charged nucleus that was small compared to the size of the atom.

Now, the opposite charges attract. But this is not a problem if the electrons are moving - in which case they could form stable 'orbits', like a planet revolving around a sun. (if the Earth stopped it would fall in).

The real problem with this picture, is that the laws of electromagnetism (Maxwell's laws) predict that a charging particle that moves like that, would emit radiation (heat/light), losing kinetic energy and slowing down. So the electron would end up spiraling into the nucleus, which obviously doesn't happen.

Then Bohr (in 1913 IIRC) made his model of the hydrogen atom, where he postulated (assumed) that the electrons were only 'allowed' to move in certain orbits, corresponding to energy (angular momentum) levels proportional to 1/(n^2) (where n is an integer, 1,2,3..etc). From this, he was able to correctly predict the approximate radius of the hydrogen atom (now known as the 'Bohr radius'), and also (approximately) explain the hydrogen atom spectrum - the spectral lines corresponded to photons who's energy difference was equal to the difference between such levels. (So the spectrum is understood as coming about from moving between these 'allowed' levels)

There are several problems with Bohr's model - to begin with, it didn't really explain all the experimental results exactly. Nor could he explain why only certain energy levels were 'allowed'.

At the same time, people were investigating the 'wave-particle duality' - that microscopic particles could act like waves, in some ways. Every particle has a wavelength known as the de Broglie wavelength. Using the de Broglie wavelength for electrons, it turned out that the 'allowed' orbits of hydrogen in the Bohr model had circumference that was equal to a whole number of electron wavelengths. The electrons orbiting the atom were acting like standing waves!

The explanation for why the electron simply couldn't fall into the nucleus came about in 1925, with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Which states that a particle cannot simultaneously have a well-defined momentum and a well defined position. So, an electron cannot be stationary (a well-defined momentum - it's zero!) and located exactly at the nucleus (a well-defined position). Or to put it another way: Nothing in the universe is 'allowed' to be perfectly stationary.

The 'final' solution to the problem of atoms came with the Schrödinger equation in 1927, when quantum physics was 'invented'. Using the Schrödinger equation, an equation similar to the wave equation, to describe the electron moving around the nucleus, you only get certain 'allowed' solutions. But the 'why' in this case is now purely mathematical - the equation only has a certain set of allowed solutions, analagous to the situation with the wave equation and standing waves.

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle is 'built in' to the Schrödinger equation, so it too predicted that the electron would not fall into the nucleus. But unlike Bohr's model, the electron did not have a definite 'orbit'. It could be close or far from the nucleus. (thanks to uncertainty) But: If one calculated the average distance from the nucleus (or rather the 'expectation value'), then you got the same value as the Bohr model!

The Schrödinger equation description of the hydrogen atom also explained quite a number of experimental results the Bohr model had not - and more importantly, it worked for every atom, and molecules! Not just Hydrogen. And it was much more accurate, but not 100% accurate, because it didn't take relativity into account. (This was done a few years later with the so-called Dirac equation.) The only problem is that it's very difficult to solve these equations - most of the time they cannot be solved exactly or analytically ("using paper and pen"), but must be calculated approximately, using computers. But in principle, it's all clear now. Paul Dirac said in 1929:

The underlying physical laws necessary for the mathematical theory of a large part of physics and the whole of chemistry are thus completely known, and the difficulty is only that the exact solution of these laws leads to equations much too complicated to be soluble.

So we still need chemists and experiments. But as computers get faster, and the methods of approximating the solutions to the Schrödinger and Dirac equations for atoms and molecules get better, 'quantum chemistry' as its called, is playing an increasingly important role.
  • #3

Hello, as a scientist, I understand your confusion about the concept of atoms and their structure. Let me try to explain it in a simple way.

Atoms are the building blocks of matter and they are made up of three subatomic particles - protons, neutrons, and electrons. Protons and neutrons make up the nucleus of an atom, which is located at the center, while electrons revolve around the nucleus in orbits.

Now, to address your main question, the reason why electrons do not merge with the nucleus is because of the concept of energy levels. Electrons have a specific amount of energy and they can only exist in certain energy levels around the nucleus. These energy levels are like shells that surround the nucleus and each energy level can only hold a certain number of electrons. The first energy level can hold a maximum of 2 electrons, the second can hold 8, and so on.

The electrons in the outermost energy level are the ones involved in chemical bonding and reactions. They are constantly moving in their orbits, but they do not merge with the nucleus because they have a specific amount of energy that keeps them in their designated energy levels.

In addition, the force of attraction between the positively charged nucleus and negatively charged electrons is not strong enough to pull the electrons into the nucleus. This is because the electrons are constantly moving and have a certain amount of energy that keeps them in motion.

I hope this explanation helps to clarify your doubts. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask. As a student of the 9th standard, it is great to see your curiosity and interest in science. Keep exploring and learning!

What is an atom?

An atom is the smallest unit of matter that retains the properties of an element. It is composed of a nucleus, which contains protons and neutrons, and electrons orbiting around the nucleus.

What is the difference between an orbit and an orbital?

An orbit refers to the circular path that an electron follows around the nucleus. An orbital refers to the specific region of space where the probability of finding an electron is highest.

What causes an atom to have an unstable nucleus?

An unstable nucleus is caused by an imbalance of protons and neutrons. The nucleus may undergo radioactive decay to become more stable.

How does the arrangement of electrons in an atom affect its chemical properties?

The arrangement of electrons in an atom determines its chemical properties. Atoms with full outer electron shells are stable and less likely to react, while atoms with incomplete outer shells are more reactive and likely to form bonds with other atoms.

How does the concept of quantum mechanics explain the behavior of electrons in an atom?

Quantum mechanics is the branch of physics that studies the behavior of particles at the atomic and subatomic level. It explains the behavior of electrons in an atom through principles such as wave-particle duality, uncertainty principle, and quantization of energy levels.

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