Electron subshell

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An electron subshell is a division of a larger electron shell based on energy levels. Energy subshells identified by the angular momentum quantum number, . They can also be described using spectroscopic notation:

Angular momentum quantum number Spectroscopic notation Spectroscopic name
0 s Sharp
1 p Principal
2 d Diffuse
3 f Fundamental

Spectroscopic notation originates from before a quantum model of the hydrogen atom, where in the spectrum of hydrogen it was noticed that the lines had different shapes. Subshells of with an angular momentum number greater than 3 are represented by the letters after f, so corresponds to the g subshell and so on.

Each subshell corresponds to a particular shape of the location in which electrons can be found, for example the s subshells take the shape of a sphere while the p subshells take the shape of a dumbbell. The number of electrons that can be held in each subshell varies, with s holding 2, p holding 6, d holding 10 and f holding 14. It can be seen that the maximum number of electrons a subshell can have is . Generally electrons around an atom are primarily divided in energy levels by shell and then subshell, although this is not always the case (for instance the 3d subshell is of a higher energy level than the 4s subshell).

See also