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Electron shell and subshell

  1. Oct 6, 2006 #1
    In my chemistry text book it says that the electron shell, represented by a value n>= 1, refers to the distance of the electron from the nucleus. It also says that the subshell (represented by L) refers to the shape of the electron cloud. The p subshell is shaped like a peanut or figure eight. My understanding of the subshell brings me to say that the center of the p-orbital (the intersection of the figure eight) is basically at the nucleus. So the electron could be anywhere in that peanut shaped distrubution. This means that the electron could be at the farthest point (from the nucleus) in the p-subshell, or extremely close to the nucleus (near the intersection of the figure-eight), or anywhere inbetween. Doesn't this go against the value n for the electron shell, which is supposed to represent the distance from the nucleus. Rephrased, if the subshell allows the electron to exist over a range of distances from the nucleus what relavance does the value n (distance from the nucleus) have if the electron is not limited to that distance? Am I misunderstanding some concepts? Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 7, 2006 #2
    Yeah, I have also wondered about this before. But I have never heard the statement that "electron shell, represented by a value n>= 1, refers to the distance of the electron from the nucleus." This sounds weird.

    In my text book, the definition given for a shell, is "a group of orbitals with the same value of n." So, I think this one makes more sense. Meanwhile, a subshell is a group of orbtals with the same value of n and l.

    The value of n also represents the energy level.

    Another thing, orbitals and orbits are 2 different things. Orbitals are mathematical equations (wave functions) for electrons in atoms. And the probability of finding an electron at a given point is proportional to the amplitude of the elctron wave squared.

    And electron is not stationary in the orbital. It is always moving. So we can only use the term probability to "describe" it.
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