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Atomic orbitals: 2s wave function

Schematic plot of the 2s wave function ψ2s. Blue represents negative values for the wave function and red represents positive values. Click on the "Show nodal structure" button to get a clearer view of the nodal structure for this orbital.

The graph on the left is a plot of values along a single line drawn through the nucleus while the surface plot on the right shows values of ψ2s on a slice drawn through the nucleus.

The equation for the 2s orbital of any given atom depends only upon the distance from the nucleus, that is, the radius, r. There are no directional properties - the value of the wave function for a given value of r is the same no matter what direction is chosen. This is why the orbital appears spherical.

The equation for the 2s orbital (ψ2s) shows that, on moving away from the nucleus, the function starts from a high point but moves across to negative values before approaching zero from the negative side. The point at which the function crosses the axis at zero is referred to as a node. Since the axis is crossed at the same radius in any direction, we see there is a nodal surface. In this case it is a radial node since the nodal surface is represented by a sphere.

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Document served: Monday 28th September, 2020