s, p, d, f, g, h Suborbitals
Date: 2001 - 2002
The sublevels s, p, d, and f sometimes are joined by g
and h (again, on web sites). I thought there were
only the four (s,p,d,f). None of the texts mention g,
h, ... How do the g and h work into configurations?
The orbitals of an atom are determined by the "principle" quantum number
"N" where (N=1,2,3,4,... ), and then the angular momentum quantum number "L"
where (L= 0, 1, 2,..., (N - 1) ) that is L has values of zero up to N-1 but
no higher. For historical reasons, the L = 0, 1, 2, 3, ... were assigned the
letters: s, p, d, f,... respectively. So if an element existed that had an
atomic number high enough that is N = 5, then it could have values of L =
0,1,2,3,4 -- that is
(s,p,d,f,g,...). For all practical purposes no elements need orbitals with
"f" orbitals. That is not true however of atoms in excited electronic states
where electrons may occupy these higher orbitals, but the analysis and
assignment of the spectra of such atoms is rather complicated.
The sublevel designations just tell the magnitude of the orbital angular
momentum of the electron. There is no theoretical limit to how high this
can go. Although f is the highest sub-level occupied in the ground states
of elements that are now known, electrons can be promoted to higher energy
levels. Thus, an excited atom may have an electron in, for instance, a 5g
or 6h orbital.
Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois
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Update: June 2012