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Chemistry LibreTexts

3: The Quantum-Mechanical Model of the Atom

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  • In this chapter, we describe how electrons are arranged in atoms and how the spatial arrangements of electrons are related to their energies. We also explain how knowing the arrangement of electrons in an atom enables chemists to predict and explain the chemistry of an element. As you study the material presented in this chapter, you will discover how the shape of the periodic table reflects the electronic arrangements of elements. In this and subsequent chapters, we build on this information to explain why certain chemical changes occur and others do not. After reading this chapter, you will know enough about the theory of the electronic structure of atoms to explain what causes the characteristic colors of neon signs, how laser beams are created, and why gemstones and fireworks have such brilliant colors. In later chapters, we will develop the concepts introduced here to explain why the only compound formed by sodium and chlorine is NaCl, an ionic compound, whereas neon and argon do not form any stable compounds, and why carbon and hydrogen combine to form an almost endless array of covalent compounds, such as CH4, C2H2, C2H4, and C2H6

    • 3.1: Schrödinger's Cat
      The field of chemistry deals with the structures, bonding, reactivity, and physical properties of atoms, molecules, radicals, and ions all of whose sizes range from ca. 1 Å for atoms and small molecules to a few hundred Å for polymers and biological molecules such as DNA and proteins. Their structures, energies, and other properties have only been successfully described within the framework of quantum mechanics. This is why quantum mechanics has to be mastered as part of learning chemistry.
    • 3.2: The Nature of Light
      Scientists discovered much of what we know about the structure of the atom by observing the interaction of atoms with various forms of radiant, or transmitted, energy, such as the energy associated with the visible light, the infrared radiation, the ultraviolet light, and the x-rays. We begin our discussion of the development of our current atomic model by describing the properties of waves and the various forms of electromagnetic radiation.
    • 3.3: Atomic Spectroscopy and The Bohr Model
      The photoelectric effect provided indisputable evidence for the existence of the photon and thus the particle-like behavior of electromagnetic radiation. However, more direct evidence was needed to verify the quantized nature of energy in all matter. In this section, we describe how observation of the interaction of atoms with visible light provided this evidence.
    • 3.4: The Wavelength Nature of Matter
    • 3.5: Quantum Mechanics and The Atom
    • 3.6: The Shape of Atomic Orbitals

    Thumbnail: The \(d_{z^2}\) Orbital.