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Electron Configuration

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Electron Configurations

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Lesson Focus

Electron Configuration


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You will explore how to write an electron configuration following the Aufbau principle, Pauli exclusion principle, and Hund’s rule.

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Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

  • Explain that atomic orbitals are regions where electrons are likely to be found.
  • Explain that an electron configuration describes which orbitals and energy levels an electron is in.
  • Describe the principles used with writing electron configurations.
  • Write an electron configuration for an atom or ion.

Everything You'll Have Covered

Electron configurations are a written way to describe the most probable location of individual electrons in an atom. Electrons naturally arrange themselves into energy levels around the nucleus. The lowest energy level is the one closest to the nucleus, and is where the first electrons are located.

Each energy level is divided into sublevels and then orbitals. The orbitals are depicted by the letters s, p, d, and f, and have specific shapes that can be diagrammed. There is a maximum of one s orbital, three p orbitals, five d orbitals and seven f orbitals in each energy level. Each orbital can only hold two electrons, but they must have opposite spins, which is represented by an up or down arrow.

To complete an orbital diagram, the total number of electrons needs to be determined, then placed in order of increasing energy. The resulting orbital diagram can be translated into an electron configuration: an ordered system composed of a repeating pattern of number, letter, and superscript. The number indicates which energy level the electron is located in, the letter is the orbital, and the superscript is the number of total electrons located in the orbital.

Tutorial Details

Approximate Time 20 Minutes
Pre-requisite Concepts Learners should be familiar with atomic history, atomic model, atomic structure, energy, ions, and subatomic particles.
Course Chemistry
Type of Tutorial Problem Solving
Key Vocabulary Aufbau, configuration, electron