Electron Configuration

Definition - What does Electron Configuration mean?

Electron configuration is the distribution of electrons of an atom or molecule (or other physical structure) in atomic or molecular orbitals; for example, the electron configuration of a neon atom is 1s2 2s2 2p6. Electronic configurations describe electrons as each moving independently in an orbital, in an average field created by all other orbitals. From electron configuration, an atoms' reactivity and potential for corrosion can be determined.

Knowledge of the electron configuration of different atoms is useful in understanding the structure of the periodic table of elements. The concept is also useful for describing the chemical bonds that hold atoms together. In bulk materials, this idea helps explain the peculiar properties of lasers and semiconductors.

Corrosionpedia explains Electron Configuration

The electron configuration of an atom describes the orbitals occupied by electrons on the atom. The basis of this prediction is a rule known as the Aufbau principle, which assumes that electrons are added to an atom, one at a time, starting with the lowest energy orbital, until all of the electrons have been placed in an appropriate orbital.

The electron configuration is used to describe the orbitals of an atom in its ground state, but it can also be used to represent an atom that has ionized into a cation or anion by compensating with the loss of or gain of electrons in their subsequent orbitals. Many of the physical and chemical properties of elements can be correlated to their unique electron configurations.

The most widespread application of electron configurations is in the rationalization of chemical properties, in both inorganic and organic chemistry. In effect, electron configurations, along with some simplified form of molecular orbital theory, have become the modern equivalent of the valence concept, describing the number and type of chemical bonds that an atom can be expected to form. A fundamental application of electron configurations is in the interpretation of atomic spectra.

The electron configuration theory was proposed by Uhlig and is an extension of the adsorption theory of passivity. Uhlig noted that a number of transition metals become passive at certain critical compositions when alloyed with a second metal. Uhlig’s idea was that a passive binary alloy would have an electron configuration as close as possible to that of an inert noble gas atom. The usual criticism of the electron configuration theory is that it fails to take into account the properties of the oxide film.

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