ATOMS, ELECTRONS, AND ORBITALS

Before discussing bonding principles, let's first review some fundamental relationships between atoms and electrons. Each element is characterized by a unique atomic number Z, which is equal to the number of protons in its nucleus. A neutral atom has equal numbers of protons, which are positively charged, and electrons, which are negatively charged. Electrons were believed to be particles from the time of their discovery in 1897 until 1924, when the French physicist Louis de Broglie suggested that they have wavelike properties as well. Two years later Erwin Schrödinger took the next step and calculated the energy of an electron in a hydrogen atom by using equations that treated the electron as if it were a wave. Instead of a single energy, Schrödinger obtained a series of energy levels, each of which corresponded to a different mathematical description of the electron wave. These mathematical descriptions are called wave functions and are symbolized by the Greek letter ψ (psi).