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Quantum Numbers

Quantum Numbers

Single-Electron Orbitals - SIntroduction: Atoms are the fundamental particles of everything. Without atoms, our world would not exist. Oxygen atoms make up what we breathe as part of our atmosphere. Helium atoms exist in a tank of gas, when we inflate balloons. Atoms of oxygen and hydrogen exist in water molecules that comprise what we drink and survive on as human beings.

The reason why these elements are so different from one another relates to what are known as quantum numbers in orbitals. Orbitals of these atoms are regions of space in which electrons have the highest probability of being found. Orbitals often differ in what are known as quantum numbers, or numbers that act as values in theoretical expressions to represent quantized properties of electrons in atoms of different elements.

The four quantum numbers are as follows: (1) the principal quantum number (n), which relates to energy levels of electrons; (2) the azimuthal quantum number (l), which relates to orbital angular momentum and the shape of the orbital; (3) the magnetic quantum number (m), which describes the unique quantum states of specific electrons; and (4) the spin quantum number (s), which describes the spin of the electrons involved in an atom. The azimuthal quantum number specifically can be used to define an orbital as being s (spherical), p (three dumbbells), d (four dumbbells), and f (eight dumbbells). The number of electrons differ in each of these specific orbital shapes.


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