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Homework Help: Not really understanding p orbitals

  1. Jul 21, 2008 #1

    I'm taking o-chem this trimester and we're reviewing some stuff from the end of gen chem last tri that I probably should have had down, but it's not making sense.

    It's the representations of orbitals around atoms and molecules. I get the s orbital. At least I think so. It forms a spherical shape around the nucleus of the atom. Now, that represents the general area of where the electron could be. Now as we move down the rows of the periodic table towards the right and have more and more valence electrons in the outer shell this changes to a p orbital. Also, lets forget about f and d orbitals for right now. The p orbitals have this weird baseball bat-like appearance. Now this is the representation for the general space of where those electrons in that valence shell could be. Am I right?

    Now when the electron moves through these "general spaces," they move in a wave format, hence the term wave function.

    Have I missed anything or is what I said correct?

    I have more questions about this, but I think I should start off slow.

    thanks in advance for your help
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 21, 2008 #2


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    Yes. The orbital represents the area in which you can find the electron with 90% probability (i.e. 90% of the time, the electron will be in the baseball bat-like area).

    Correct. The wave-like nature of the electron is necessary to explain the fact that the electron can be on either side of the nucleus (in either lobe of the orbital), yet it is impossible to find the electron in the plane of the nucleus.
  4. Jul 23, 2008 #3
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