Atoms and Molecules

Properties of Atoms and Electrons in Atoms

What do atomic orbitals look like?

There are three main shapes of orbitals relevant to most of chemistry, and these are referred to as s, p, and d orbitals. The designations s, p, and d are abbreviations for sharp, principle, diffuse, and fundamental, which have historical significance describing results of early experiments to probe the electronic structure of atoms. You can see what these orbitals look like in the graphic on the preceding page.

The shapes of these orbitals are determined by their orbital angular momentum, which is a property that describes the motion of the electron around the nucleus.


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