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Home :FAQ :Electrons in atomsPrint | Comment
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How do electrons cross nodes, if they can never be at the node?

How does an electron travel between the lobes of a p orbital, if the probability of it being between the lobes is zero?
L. H. Asio

You're looking at a wave (the p orbital) and thinking about particles. The electron wave has no trouble 'traveling' past a plane of zero amplitude (the nodal plane). Consider a vibrating guitar string with a node in the center of the string. The string can move up and down on either side of the node, even though the string at the node doesn't move at all. The p orbital behaves exactly the same way.

Don't wonder which lobe the electron is in. The question has no answer because the electron is delocalized (smeared out); it's in both the lobes!

Author: Fred Senese senese@antoine.frostburg.edu



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