Understanding De Broeglie Wavelength & Electron Orbits

  • Thread starter Shark 774
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  • #1
Electrons orbits are only allowed when a stable standing wave is formed around the nucleus, i.e. when the orbit circumference is an integer multiple of the electron's de broeglie wavelength. But is it possibly for it to temporarily exist in an orbit that is NOT an integer multiple of its wavelength and then VERY quickly decay to a stable orbit, or does it this just completely impossible?

(Note: I am only at a high school physics level)

  • #2
Shark, The idea that electrons in atoms travel in orbits about the nucleus was an early step before anyone understood how different quantum mechanics was. All that was known at that time was that only certain values of the energy were permitted. The Bohr model of the atom tried to explain this by picturing the atom as a miniature solar system, pretty much obeying classical mechanics except that the electron was required to be at values of the radius determined by the deBroglie wavelength. The Bohr model was a partial success in that it explained the energy levels, but failed on many of the details.

It was soon replaced by the Schrodinger theory, which roughly pictures an atomic level as an electron cloud. The electron does not go zipping around and around t he nucleus, and is not required to stay at a single radius, but has a probability spread over a range, which may even include r = 0.
  • #3
Cool thanks! That really blows my year 12 understanding out of the water.
  • #4
if the nucleus loses or gains a charge all orbiting electrons will be in unallowed orbits.

some may even be below the lowest allowed orbit and will have to move upward (radiating energy as they do)

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