What Is the Maximum Number of Electrons an Orbital May Contain?


Quick Answer

Orbitals may contain only two electrons each. Electrons move around in orbitals, which are areas where electrons have a high possibility of being found. Orbitals are grouped together into energy levels.

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Full Answer

Each energy level contains a specific number of orbitals. The first energy level of every atom contains only one orbital: the s orbital. With each subsequent energy level, more orbitals are added.

Each energy level can only have one s orbital, which is spherical in shape. The next orbitals added are the p orbitals, which look like dumbbells. Once the s orbitals fill up, the electrons spill over onto the p orbitals. The next orbitals are the d and the f.

An element can be represented by a figure depicting the electrons present in each orbital and energy level. Oxygen, atomic number 8, would have a configuration of 1s2 2s2 2p4; and iodine, with an atomic number of 53, would have 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 3d10 4s2 4p6 4d10 5s2 5p5 as its configuration.

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