7 Difference Between Atomic Orbital And Molecular Orbital

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Atomic Orbitals

An atomic orbital is a mathematical function describing the location and wave-like behavior of an electron in an atom. This function can be used to calculate the probability of finding any electron of an atom in any specific region around the atom’s nucleus. The term atomic orbital can also to the physical region or space where the electron can be calculated to be present, as predicted by the particular mathematical form of the orbital.

While it is impossible to know the exact location of an electron at a given time, the orbital can be used to determine the energy of the electron. Electron energy is important in understanding the behavior and properties of atoms, for example, predicting which electrons will transfer from one atom to another during chemical reactions. The Schrodinger equation can be used to derive the energies and orbitals of electrons around a single atom.

Though electrons can be represented simply as cycling in rings, in reality, electrons move along paths that are somehow much more complicated, these paths are referred to as atomic orbitals or subshells. There are several different orbital shapes- s, p, d and f. The first energy level contains only s orbital, the second energy level contains one s orbital and three p orbitals and the third energy level contains one s orbital, three p orbitals and five d orbitals. Within each energy level, the s orbital is at a lower energy than the p orbitals.

What You Need To Know About Atomic Orbital

  • An atomic orbital is a mathematical function describing the wave-like behavior of an electron in an atom.
  • Atomic orbital describes the region having the highest probability of finding an electron in an atom.
  • Atomic orbitals are mono centric consisting of one nucleus.
  • A single nucleus affects the density of atomic orbital.
  • Atomic orbitals are used in atoms.
  • Atomic orbitals have fixed shape S, P, d and f.   
  • The electron density in atomic orbitals can be described by using the Schrodinger equation.

Molecular Orbitals

Molecular orbital is a mathematical function that describes the wave-like behavior of either one electron or a pair of electrons in an atom. This function can be used to calculate chemical and physical properties such as the probability of finding an electron in any specific region.

When multiple atoms combine chemically into a molecule, the electrons’ locations are determined by the molecule as a whole, so the atomic orbitals combine to form molecular orbitals. The electrons from the constituent atoms occupy the molecular orbitals. Mathematically, molecular orbitals are an approximate solution to the Schrodinger equation for the electrons in the field of the molecule’s atomic nuclei. They are usually constructed by combining atomic orbitals or hybrid orbitals from each atom of the molecule or other molecular orbitals from groups of atoms.

Molecular orbitals are of three types:

  • Nonbonding orbitals: They have the same energy as their constituent atomic orbitals and thus have no effect on the bonding of the molecule.
  • Antibonding orbitals: They have an energy higher than the energy of their constituent atomic orbitals and so oppose the bonding of the molecule.
  • Bonding orbitals: They have an energy lower than the energy of the atomic orbitals which formed them and thus promote the chemical bonds which hold the molecule together.

What You Need To Know About Molecular Orbital

  • Molecular orbital is a mathematical function that describes the wave-like behavior of either one electron or a pair of electrons in an atom.
  • Molecular orbital describes the region having the highest probability of finding an electron of a molecule.
  • Molecular orbitals are poly centric consisting of two or more nucleus.
  • Two or more nucleus affects the density of nuclei.
  • Molecular orbitals are used in molecules.
  • Molecular orbitals can change their shapes based on hybridization.
  • The electron density in molecular orbital can generally be described using the Linear Combination of atomic orbitals (LCAO).

Also Read: Difference Between Valence Bond Theory And Molecular Orbital Theory

Difference Between Atomic Orbital And Molecular Orbital In Tabular Form

BASIS OF COMPARISON ATOMIC ORBITAL MOLECULAR ORBITAL
Description An atomic orbital is a mathematical function describing the wave-like behavior of an electron in a molecule.   Molecular orbital is a mathematical function that describes the wave-like behavior of either one electron or a pair of electrons in an atom.  
Objective Molecular orbital describes the region having the highest probability of finding an electron in an atom.   Molecular orbital describes the region having the highest probability of finding an electron of a molecule.  
Nature Atomic orbitals are mono centric consisting of one nucleus.   Molecular orbitals are poly centric consisting of two or more nucleus.  
Nucleus A single nucleus affects the density of atomic orbital.   Two or more nucleus affects the density of nuclei.  
Use Atomic orbitals are used in atoms.   Molecular orbitals are used in molecules.  
Shapes Atomic orbitals have fixed shape S, P, d and f.     Molecular orbitals can change their shapes based on hybridization.  
Descriptive Equation The electron density in atomic orbitals can be described by using the Schrodinger equation.   The electron density in molecular orbital can generally be described using the Linear Combination of atomic orbitals (LCAO).  

Also Read: Difference Between Bonding And Antibonding Molecular Orbitals