What Was the Impact of Erwin Schrodinger's Atomic Cloud Model?

impact-erwin-schrodinger-s-atomic-cloud-model Credit: Lawrence Lawry/Photodisc/Getty Images

Erwin Schrodinger’s atomic cloud model revolutionized the way scientists viewed the structure of the atom. Building on the work of Neils Bohr, Schrodinger demonstrated that it was impossible to determine the exact location of the electron at a particular point in time. Instead, Schrodinger’s model showed that an electron could be found in some portion of an electron “cloud” at any specific point in time.

Schrodinger’s work largely took the form of a probability equation. In essence, the equation demonstrated that while the electron was more likely to be found at a specific point at a given point in time, it was impossible to determine whether or not the electron actually was there.

Experimental results cannot provide any more definitive answers regarding the location of the electron at a particular point in space and time. Visible light’s wavelengths are too large to view atomic structures, so light microscopes are of no use to atomic investigations. Normally, scientists examine very small objects with electron microscopes. Electron microscopes fire electrons, rather than photons of light, at the object to be seen. However, electrons used in electron microscopes cannot provide imagery of other electrons because they are the same size and they will cause the original electron’s position to change.