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The Quantum Mechanical Model of the Atom

What we believe today
by

Dominick Messina

on 1 October 2012

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Transcript of The Quantum Mechanical Model of the Atom

The Quantum Mechanical
Model of the atom The REAL atomic structure (or so we think...) The Bohr and Rutherford models of the atom were revolutionary for their time, but were inconsistent with theoretical calculations and experimental results that describe the motion of electrons. ENTER... Louis de'Broglie Louis de'Broglie, after reading Einstein's suggestion that photons move in a wave-like fashion, proposed that all matter, including electrons, also move in waves. de'Broglie's idea intrigues physicist Erwin Schrodinger who applies de'Broglie's hypothesis to the structure of an atom and created... (wait for it) SCHRODINGER's MODEL OF THE ATOM!!! Schrödinger's Atom: A dialogue Oh! And that's why orbits are useful! They may be misleading about where the electron is, but they do tell us how much energy it has.
We call this the Energy Level of the electron. Because the idea of orbits is so misleading, physicists started using a picture of the atom which just showed energy levels as relative heights. So where is an electron when you're not looking? Doesn't it have to be somewhere?
That's the bizarre part: an electron isn't in any particular place when you aren't looking. Fortunately, for most physics it doesn't really matter where it actually is, we only care about how much energy it has. What do you mean when you say the electron "probably is" somewhere? Isn't the electron in some definite place?
Well, no. Until you check where it is, it's really just a wave. Not only that, but Schrödinger showed that these electrons don't even move. The waves are stationary. Each time you check where an electron is you will find it in a different place, but that doesn't mean it's moving in between checks. For some energy levels, if you check position enough times you may see an "orbit-like" pattern, but don't be fooled into thinking that electrons are actually moving around in little circles. Hold it! What do you mean electrons are waves?! I thought they were particles!
This is where quantum physics gets truly bizarre. If you perform an experiment to see where a particle is, then you find something particle-like. But otherwise it's a wave that carries information about where the electron probably is. So what's wrong with the idea of electrons going around in orbits?
A physicist named Erwin Schrödinger showed that electrons are really waves that... Definition:
An atomic orbital is a region of space in which there is a high probability of finding an electron. So the take away...
electron's do not orbit the nucleus,
but they do move in what physicists
(and chemists) call 'orbitals.' The energy levels of electrons in the quantum mechanical model are labeled by principal quantum numbers (n=1,2,3,4...). For each principal energy level, there may be several orbitals with different shaps and at different energy levels. These energy levels within a principal energy level constitute energy sublevels. Each energy sublevel corresponds to an orbital of a different shape, which describes where the electron is likely to be found. electron 'clouds'
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