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Is there an animation that potrays overall look of orbitals?

  1. Mar 21, 2014 #1
    And how electrons behave in each separate orbital? I was told that, in case of Boron, electron in 3p orbital will not be confined to the imaginary region of the 3p orbital (3px orbital, whose shape resembles a bowtie), but instead will be moving around the nucleus as if its movement was confined to an s orbital (spherical).

    Also, do electrons interchange between orbitals? If yes, how often? In case of Boron, let's suppose. Do electrons usually "stick" to their orbitals?
    So, for example, if you try to mark a certain electron in 1s orbital, you'd know that if you return an hour later, that specific electron will still be confined to the region of 1s orbital, meaning it won't be "hanging out" in the region as defined by 3p orbital's shape, right?
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 23, 2014 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    "Orbital" is a misnomer ... we do not think of electrons in atoms as "moving about" at all, we think of them as "occupying an energy state". So much of the background concepts behind your questions just do not apply.

    Electrons are identical particles - this means that if two electrons exchanged energy states, orbitals, we would not be able to tell. It is physically exactly the same as if they didn't so we don't bother wondering about it.

    There is no way to mark an electron.

    But - the 1s state has a radial distribution that is spherical and extends all the way to infinity.
    This means that there is some non-zero probability of finding an electron with the energy of the 1s electron anywhere.
    Though we are most likely to find it close to the nucleus.

    The 3p state has a kinda dumbell distribution, but extends through all space too.
    But in this case there are particular distances where the probability vanishes...

    So there is no regeon of space that is excluded to the 1s electron, but there are a few excluded from the 3p electron.

    The average radii of the distributions is what gives the "shell"s of the shell model.
    The electrons are most likely to be found close to this value.

    These are the distributions for hydrogen:
    ... the same basic shapes follow for states in other atoms - with different distances.

    So there won't be an animation that will do you any good - because there is nothing to animate.
  4. Mar 23, 2014 #3


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    That's a difficult question: In real atoms with more than one electron, one-electron orbitals are no longer well defined, but represent just an approximation. The real wavefunction is a quantum mechanical superposition of the electrons being in different orbitals. "This is technically called "configuration interaction".
    Alternatively, the wavefunction of many-body atoms can be analysed in terms of so-called "natural orbitals" which are well defined but contain a non-integer value of electrons.

    One more point: The electronic distribution in boron atoms in the ground state is never spherically symmetric. However, as all directions are energetically degenerate, an ensemble of many boron atoms will look spatially isotropic, i.e. in the mean over all atoms, there will be no preferred direction. However, this degeneracy can be split applying an electric or magnetic field.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2014
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