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Question:
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?


Replies:
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 L>3 or "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.

Vince Calder


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.
Assistant Director
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois



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