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Atomic orbitals: 5p

The shape of the three 5p orbitals. From left to right: 5pz, 5px, and 5py. For each, the copper zones are where the wave functions have negative values and the blue zones denote positive values.

For any atom, there are three 5p orbitals. These orbitals have the same shape but are aligned differently in space. The three 5p orbitals normally used are labelled 5px, 5py, and 5pz since the functions are "aligned" along the x, y, and z axes respectively.

Each 5p orbital has eight lobes. There is a planar node normal to the axis of the orbital (so the 5px orbital has a yz nodal plane, for instance). Apart from the planar node there are also three spherical node that partition off the small inner lobes. The higher p-orbitals (6p, and 7p) are more complex still snce they have even more spherical nodes.

The origin of the planar node becomes clear if we examine the wave equation which, for instance, includes an x term in the case of the 5px orbital. Clearly When x = 0, then we must have a node, and this by definition is the yz plane.

The origin of the spherical nodes becomes clearer if we examine the wave equations, which include a (120 - 90ρ + 18ρ2 - ρ3) terms. When (120 - 90ρ + 18ρ2 - ρ3) = 0, then we must have nodes. While not trivial, we can solve this on a case-by-case basis to determine the position of the nodes.

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Document served: Wednesday 21st October, 2020