Unlike planets orbiting the Sun, electrons cannot be at any type of arbitrary distance from the nucleus; they deserve to exist just in certain certain locations called enabled orbits. This property, an initial explained by Danish physicist Niels Bohr in 1913, is another an outcome of quantum mechanics—specifically, the necessity that the angular inert of an electron in orbit, like whatever else in the quantum world, come in discrete bundles called quanta.

You are watching: Electrons travel in paths called energy levels


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In the quantum mechanical variation of the Bohr atom model, each of the permitted electron orbits is assigned a quantum number n the runs indigenous 1 (for the orbit closest to the nucleus) come infinity (for orbits really far native the nucleus). Every one of the orbitals that have the same value that n comprise a shell. Inside each covering there may be subshells matching to different rates of rotation and orientation that orbitals and also the spin directions of the electrons. In general, the farther far from the nucleus a covering is, the more subshells it will certainly have. See the table.


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This setup of feasible orbitals describes a good deal about the chemical properties of various atoms. The easiest way to see this is come imagine structure up facility atoms by starting with hydrogen and adding one proton and also one electron (along v the appropriate number of neutrons) at a time. In hydrogen the lowest-energy orbit—called the floor state—corresponds to the electron located in the covering closest come the nucleus. There room two feasible states for an electron in this shell, corresponding to a clockwise spin and also a counterclockwise spin (or, in the slang of physicists, spin up and also spin down).

The following most-complex atom is helium, which has actually two proton in the nucleus and also two orbiting electrons. These electrons fill the two available states in the shortest shell, developing what is called a fill shell. The next atom is lithium, with 3 electrons. Since the closest shell is filled, the third electron goes right into the next higher shell. This shell has actually spaces for eight electrons, so that it take away an atom through 10 electrons (neon) to fill the first two levels. The next atom ~ neon, sodium, has 11 electrons, so that one electron goes into the next highest possible shell.

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In the progression hence far, 3 atoms—hydrogen, lithium, and sodium—have one electron in the outermost shell. As proclaimed above, it is this outermost electron that determine the chemistry properties of an atom. Therefore, these three aspects should have comparable properties, as indeed they do. Because that this reason, they appear in the same tower of the routine table of the aspects (see regular law), and the very same principle determines the position of every aspect in that table. The outermost covering of electrons—called the valence shell—determines the chemical behaviour of an atom, and also the variety of electrons in this shell counts on how many are left over after all the inner shells space filled.