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Electron shell

Periodic table with electron shells


In chemistry and atomic physics, an
electron shell, or a principal energy level,
may be thought of as an orbit followed by
electrons around an atom's nucleus. The
closest shell to the nucleus is called the "1
shell" (also called "K shell"), followed by
the "2 shell" (or "L shell"), then the "3 shell"
(or "M shell"), and so on farther and farther
from the nucleus. The shells correspond
with the principal quantum numbers (n = 1,
2, 3, 4 ...) or are labeled alphabetically with
letters used in the X-ray notation (K, L,
M, …).

Each shell can contain only a fixed number


of electrons: The first shell can hold up to
two electrons, the second shell can hold
up to eight (2 + 6) electrons, the third shell
can hold up to 18 (2 + 6 + 10) and so on.
The general formula is that the nth shell
can in principle hold up to 2(n2)
electrons.[1] Since electrons are electrically
attracted to the nucleus, an atom's
electrons will generally occupy outer shells
only if the more inner shells have already
been completely filled by other electrons.
However, this is not a strict requirement:
atoms may have two or even three
incomplete outer shells. (See Madelung
rule for more details.) For an explanation
of why electrons exist in these shells see
electron configuration.[2]
The electrons in the outermost occupied
shell (or shells) determine the chemical
properties of the atom; it is called the
valence shell.

Each shell consists of one or more


subshells, and each subshell consists of
one or more atomic orbitals.

History
The shell terminology comes from Arnold
Sommerfeld's modification of the Bohr
model. Sommerfeld retained Bohr's
planetary model, but added mildly elliptical
orbits (characterized by additional
quantum numbers ℓ and m) to explain the
fine spectroscopic structure of some
elements.[3] The multiple electrons with
the same principal quantum number (n)
had close orbits that formed a "shell" of
positive thickness instead of the infinitely
thin circular orbit of Bohr's model.

The existence of electron shells was first


observed experimentally in Charles
Barkla's and Henry Moseley's X-ray
absorption studies. Barkla labeled them
with the letters K, L, M, N, O, P, and Q.[4] The
origin of this terminology was alphabetic.
A "J" series was also suspected, though
later experiments indicated that the K
absorption lines are produced by the
innermost electrons. These letters were
later found to correspond to the n values 1,
2, 3, etc. They are used in the
spectroscopic Siegbahn notation.

The physical chemist Gilbert Lewis was


responsible for much of the early
development of the theory of the
participation of valence shell electrons in
chemical bonding. Linus Pauling later
generalized and extended the theory while
applying insights from quantum
mechanics.

Shells
The electron shells are labeled K, L, M, N,
O, P, and Q; or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7; going
from innermost shell outwards. Electrons
in outer shells have higher average energy
and travel farther from the nucleus than
those in inner shells. This makes them
more important in determining how the
atom reacts chemically and behaves as a
conductor, because the pull of the atom's
nucleus upon them is weaker and more
easily broken. In this way, a given
element's reactivity is highly dependent
upon its electronic configuration.

Subshells
Each shell is composed of one or more
subshells, which are themselves
composed of atomic orbitals. For example,
the first (K) shell has one subshell, called
1s; the second (L) shell has two subshells,
called 2s and 2p; the third shell has 3s, 3p,
and 3d; the fourth shell has 4s, 4p, 4d and
4f; the fifth shell has 5s, 5p, 5d, and 5f and
can theoretically hold more but the 5f
subshell, although partially occupied in
actinides, is not filled in any element
occurring naturally.[2] The various possible
subshells are shown in the following table:
Subshell Max
ℓ Shells containing it Historical name
label electrons

s 0 2 Every shell  sharp

p 1 6 2nd shell and higher  principal

d 2 10 3rd shell and higher  diffuse

f 3 14 4th shell and higher  fundamental

5th shell and higher (next in alphabet after f, excluding


g 4 18
(theoretically) j)[5]

The first column is the "subshell label", a


lowercase-letter label for the type of
subshell. For example, the "4s subshell"
is a subshell of the fourth (N) shell, with
the type (s) described in the first row.
The second column is the azimuthal
quantum number (ℓ) of the subshell.
The precise definition involves quantum
mechanics, but it is a number that
characterizes the subshell.
The third column is the maximum
number of electrons that can be put into
a subshell of that type. For example, the
top row says that each s-type subshell
(1s, 2s, etc.) can have at most two
electrons in it. In each case the figure is
4 greater than the one above it.
The fourth column says which shells
have a subshell of that type. For
example, looking at the top two rows,
every shell has an s subshell, while only
the second shell and higher have a p
subshell (i.e., there is no "1p" subshell).
The final column gives the historical
origin of the labels s, p, d, and f. They
come from early studies of atomic
spectral lines. The other labels, namely
g, h and i, are an alphabetic continuation
following the last historically originated
label of f.

Although it is commonly stated that all the


electrons in a shell have the same energy,
this is an approximation. However, the
electrons in one subshell do have exactly
the same level of energy,[6] with later
subshells having more energy per electron
than earlier ones. This effect is great
enough that the energy ranges associated
with shells can overlap (see valence shells
and Aufbau principle).
Number of electrons in each
shell
Shells and subshells. 1 rectangular triangle (1/2 of a
cell) = 1 electron on the level. Red color indicates
sublevel s; orange - p; yellow - d; green - f; blue - g;
indigo - h; violet - i
g

Subshell Shell
Shell Subshell
max max
name name
electrons electrons

K 1s 2 2

2s 2
L 2+6=8
2p 6

3s 2
2 + 6 + 10
M 3p 6
= 18
3d 10

4s 2
2+6+
4p 6
N 10 + 14
4d 10
= 32
4f 14

5s 2

5p 6 2+6+
O 5d 10 10 + 14 +
18 = 50
5f 14

5g 18

Each subshell is constrained to hold 4ℓ + 2


electrons at most, namely:
Each s subshell holds at most 2
electrons
Each p subshell holds at most 6
electrons
Each d subshell holds at most 10
electrons
Each f subshell holds at most 14
electrons
Each g subshell holds at most 18
electrons

Therefore, the K shell, which contains only


an s subshell, can hold up to 2 electrons;
the L shell, which contains an s and a p,
can hold up to 2 + 6 = 8 electrons, and so
forth; in general, the nth shell can hold up
to 2n2 electrons.[1]

Although that formula gives the maximum


in principle, in fact that maximum is only
achieved (by known elements) for the first
four shells (K, L, M, N). No known element
has more than 32 electrons in any one
shell.[7][8] This is because the subshells are
filled according to the Aufbau principle.
The first elements to have more than 32
electrons in one shell would belong to the
g-block of period 8 of the periodic table.
These elements would have some
electrons in their 5g subshell and thus
have more than 32 electrons in the O shell
(fifth principal shell).

Valence shell
The valence shell is the outermost shell of
an atom. Valence electrons in non-
transition metal elements reside in this
shell. Such elements with complete
valence shells (noble gases) are the most
chemically non-reactive, while those with
only one electron in their valence shells
(alkali metals) or just missing one electron
from having a complete shell (halogens)
are the most reactive.[9]
However, this terminology is somewhat
misleading in the case of transition
metals. In these elements, a valence
electron can also be in an inner shell.
Thus, the electrons that determine how an
atom reacts chemically are those that
travel farthest from the nucleus, that is,
those with the highest energy, and not
necessarily in the valence shell.

List of elements with


electrons per shell
The list below gives the elements arranged
by increasing atomic number and shows
the number of electrons per shell. At a
glance, one can see that subsets of the list
show obvious patterns. In particular, the
seven elements (in    electric blue)
before a noble gas (group 18, in  
 yellow) higher than helium have the
number of electrons in the valence shell in
arithmetic progression. (However, this
pattern may break down in the seventh
period due to relativistic effects.)

Sorting the table by chemical group shows


additional patterns, especially with respect
to the last two outermost shells.
(Elements 57 to 71 belong to the
lanthanides, while 89 to 103 are the
actinides.)
The list below is primarily consistent with
the Aufbau principle. However, there are a
number of exceptions to the rule; for
example palladium (atomic number 46)
has no electrons in the fifth shell, unlike
other atoms with lower atomic number.
Some entries in the table are uncertain,
when experimental data is unavailable.
(For example, the elements past 108 have
such short half-lives that their electron
configurations have not yet been
measured.)
Z Element No. of electrons/shell Group

1 Hydrogen 1 1

2 Helium 2 18

3 Lithium 2, 1 1

4 Beryllium 2, 2 2

5 Boron 2, 3 13

6 Carbon 2, 4 14

7 Nitrogen 2, 5 15

8 Oxygen 2, 6 16

9 Fluorine 2, 7 17

10 Neon 2, 8 18

11 Sodium 2, 8, 1 1

12 Magnesium 2, 8, 2 2

13 Aluminium 2, 8, 3 13

14 Silicon 2, 8, 4 14

15 Phosphorus 2, 8, 5 15

16 Sulfur 2, 8, 6 16

17 Chlorine 2, 8, 7 17

18 Argon 2, 8, 8 18

19 Potassium 2, 8, 8, 1 1

20 Calcium 2, 8, 8, 2 2

21 Scandium 2, 8, 9, 2 3

22 Titanium 2, 8, 10, 2 4

23 Vanadium 2, 8, 11, 2 5

24 Chromium 2, 8, 13, 1 6

25 Manganese 2, 8, 13, 2 7

26 Iron 2, 8, 14, 2 8

27 Cobalt 2, 8, 15, 2 9

28 Nickel 2, 8, 16, 2 10
29 Copper 2, 8, 18, 1 11

30 Zinc 2, 8, 18, 2 12

31 Gallium 2, 8, 18, 3 13

32 Germanium 2, 8, 18, 4 14

33 Arsenic 2, 8, 18, 5 15

34 Selenium 2, 8, 18, 6 16

35 Bromine 2, 8, 18, 7 17

36 Krypton 2, 8, 18, 8 18

37 Rubidium 2, 8, 18, 8, 1 1

38 Strontium 2, 8, 18, 8, 2 2

39 Yttrium 2, 8, 18, 9, 2 3

40 Zirconium 2, 8, 18, 10, 2 4

41 Niobium 2, 8, 18, 12, 1 5

42 Molybdenum 2, 8, 18, 13, 1 6

43 Technetium 2, 8, 18, 13, 2 7

44 Ruthenium 2, 8, 18, 15, 1 8

45 Rhodium 2, 8, 18, 16, 1 9

46 Palladium 2, 8, 18, 18 10

47 Silver 2, 8, 18, 18, 1 11

48 Cadmium 2, 8, 18, 18, 2 12

49 Indium 2, 8, 18, 18, 3 13

50 Tin 2, 8, 18, 18, 4 14

51 Antimony 2, 8, 18, 18, 5 15

52 Tellurium 2, 8, 18, 18, 6 16

53 Iodine 2, 8, 18, 18, 7 17

54 Xenon 2, 8, 18, 18, 8 18

55 Caesium 2, 8, 18, 18, 8, 1 1

56 Barium 2, 8, 18, 18, 8, 2 2

57 Lanthanum 2, 8, 18, 18, 9, 2 3


58 Cerium 2, 8, 18, 19, 9, 2

59 Praseodymium 2, 8, 18, 21, 8, 2

60 Neodymium 2, 8, 18, 22, 8, 2

61 Promethium 2, 8, 18, 23, 8, 2

62 Samarium 2, 8, 18, 24, 8, 2

63 Europium 2, 8, 18, 25, 8, 2

64 Gadolinium 2, 8, 18, 25, 9, 2

65 Terbium 2, 8, 18, 27, 8, 2

66 Dysprosium 2, 8, 18, 28, 8, 2

67 Holmium 2, 8, 18, 29, 8, 2

68 Erbium 2, 8, 18, 30, 8, 2

69 Thulium 2, 8, 18, 31, 8, 2

70 Ytterbium 2, 8, 18, 32, 8, 2

71 Lutetium 2, 8, 18, 32, 9, 2

72 Hafnium 2, 8, 18, 32, 10, 2 4

73 Tantalum 2, 8, 18, 32, 11, 2 5

74 Tungsten 2, 8, 18, 32, 12, 2 6

75 Rhenium 2, 8, 18, 32, 13, 2 7

76 Osmium 2, 8, 18, 32, 14, 2 8

77 Iridium 2, 8, 18, 32, 15, 2 9

78 Platinum 2, 8, 18, 32, 17, 1 10

79 Gold 2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 1 11

80 Mercury 2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 2 12

81 Thallium 2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 3 13

82 Lead 2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 4 14

83 Bismuth 2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 5 15

84 Polonium 2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 6 16

85 Astatine 2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 7 17


86 Radon 2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 8 18

87 Francium 2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 8, 1 1

88 Radium 2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 8, 2 2

89 Actinium 2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 9, 2 3

90 Thorium 2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 10, 2

91 Protactinium 2, 8, 18, 32, 20, 9, 2

92 Uranium 2, 8, 18, 32, 21, 9, 2

93 Neptunium 2, 8, 18, 32, 22, 9, 2

94 Plutonium 2, 8, 18, 32, 24, 8, 2

95 Americium 2, 8, 18, 32, 25, 8, 2

96 Curium 2, 8, 18, 32, 25, 9, 2

97 Berkelium 2, 8, 18, 32, 27, 8, 2

98 Californium 2, 8, 18, 32, 28, 8, 2

99 Einsteinium 2, 8, 18, 32, 29, 8, 2

100 Fermium 2, 8, 18, 32, 30, 8, 2

101 Mendelevium 2, 8, 18, 32, 31, 8, 2

102 Nobelium 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 8, 2

103 Lawrencium 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 8, 3

104 Rutherfordium 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 10, 2 4

105 Dubnium 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 11, 2 5

106 Seaborgium 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 12, 2 6

107 Bohrium 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 13, 2 7

108 Hassium 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 14, 2 8

109 Meitnerium 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 15, 2 (?) 9

110 Darmstadtium 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 16, 2 (?) 10

111 Roentgenium 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 17, 2 (?) 11

112 Copernicium 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 18, 2 (?) 12

113 Nihonium 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 18, 3 (?) 13

114 Flerovium 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 18, 4 (?) 14


115 Moscovium 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 18, 5 (?) 15

116 Livermorium 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 18, 6 (?) 16

117 Tennessine 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 18, 7 (?) 17

118 Oganesson 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 18, 8 (?) 18

See also
Wikimedia Commons has media related
to Electron shell diagrams.

Periodic table (electron configurations)


Electron counting
18-Electron rule
Core charge

References
1. Re: Why do electron shells have set
limits ? madsci.org, 17 March 1999, Dan
Berger, Faculty Chemistry/Science, Bluffton
College
2. Electron Subshells . Corrosion Source.
3. Donald Sadoway, Introduction to Solid
State Chemistry, Lecture 5
4. Barkla, Charles G. (1911). "XXXIX.The
spectra of the fluorescent Röntgen
radiations". Philosophical Magazine. Series
6. 22 (129): 396.
doi:10.1080/14786440908637137 .
“Previously denoted by letters B and A (...).
The letters K and L are, however, preferable,
as it is highly probable that series of
radiations both more absorbable and more
penetrating exist.”
5. Jue, T. (2009). "Quantum Mechanic Basic
to Biophysical Methods" . Fundamental
Concepts in Biophysics. Berlin: Springer.
p. 33. ISBN 1-58829-973-2.
6. The statement that the electrons in one
subshell have exactly the same level of
energy is true in an isolated atom, where it
follows quantum-mechanically from the
spherical symmetry of the system. When
the atom is part of a molecule, this no
longer holds; see, for example, crystal field
theory.
7. Orbitals . Chem4Kids. Retrieved on 1
December 2011.
8. Electron & Shell Configuration .
Chemistry.patent-invent.com. Retrieved on
1 December 2011.
9. Chemical Reactions . Vision Learning (26
July 2011). Retrieved on 1 December 2011.

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