The key difference between orbital diagram and electron configuration is that the orbital diagram shows the electrons in arrows, indicating the spin of electrons. But, the electron configuration does not show details on the spin of electrons.
The orbital diagram shows the arrangement of the electrons given by the electron configuration. The electron configuration gives the details about the distribution of the electrons throughout the orbitals of the atom. But, the orbital diagram shows the spin of electrons as well. This is the basic difference between orbital diagram and electron configuration.
What is Orbital Diagram?
The orbital diagram is a type of diagram which shows the distribution of electrons in the orbitals of an atom and indicates the spin of those electrons. It is a type of notation which shows which orbitals are filled and which are partially filled. Here, we use arrows to represent electrons. The direction of the arrowhead (upward or downward) indicates the spin of the electron.
An orbital can have a maximum of two electrons. According to the Pauli exclusion principle, two electrons in the same atom cannot have the same quantum number set. This means, even if all other quantum numbers are the same, spin quantum number is different. The two electrons in the same orbital have opposite spin. The above image shows an example of an orbital diagram.
What is Electron Configuration?
Electron configuration is a way of arranging the electrons of an atom by showing the distribution of those electrons throughout the orbitals. Earlier, electron configuration was developed using the Bohr model of the atom. This is accurate for small atoms with fewer electrons, but when considering large atoms with a large number of electrons, we have to use quantum theory for the determination of electron distribution.
According to quantum mechanics, an electron shell is the state of several electrons sharing the same principal quantum number, and we name the shell using the number given for the energy level and the type of orbital we are considering, e.g., 2s refers to the s orbital of the electron shell of the 2nd energy level. Moreover, there is a pattern which describes the maximum number of electrons an electron shell can contain. Here, this maximum number depends on the azimuthal quantum number, l. Further, the values l = 0, 1, 2 and 3 refer to the s, p, d and f orbitals respectively. The maximum number of electrons a shell can contain = 2(2l+1). Therefore, we can develop the following table;
|Orbital||Maximum number of electrons 2(2l+1)|
|L = 0 is s orbital||2|
|L = 1 is p orbital||6|
|L = 2 is d orbital||10|
|L = 3 is f orbital||14|
When considering the notation of electron configuration, we need to use the sequence of quantum numbers. For example, the electron configuration for the hydrogen atom is 1s1. Here, this notation says that hydrogen atoms have one electron in the s orbital of the first electron shell. For phosphorus, the electron configuration is 1s22s22p63s23p3. That means; the phosphorous atom has 3 electron shells filled with 15 electrons.
What is the Difference Between Orbital Diagram and Electron Configuration?
The orbital diagram shows the arrangement of the electrons given by the electron configuration. The key difference between orbital diagram and electron configuration is that the orbital diagram shows the electrons in arrows indicating the spin of electrons. Meanwhile, the electron configuration does not show details on the spin of electrons. Moreover, in the notation pattern, orbital diagrams use arrows to represent electrons, while electron configuration indicates electrons using numbers.
Below is a summary of the difference between orbital diagram and electron configuration.
Summary – Orbital Diagram vs Electron Configuration
The key difference between orbital diagram and electron configuration is that orbital diagram shows the electrons in arrows indicating the spin of electrons, whereas electron configuration does not show details on the spin of electrons.
1. “1.4: Electron Configuration and Orbital Diagrams.” Chemistry LibreTexts, Libretexts, 26 Sept. 2019, Available here.
1. “Orbital diagram nitrogen” By CK-12 Foundation (raster), Adrignola (vector) – File:High School Chemistry.pdf, page 327 (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Electron orbitals” By Patricia.fidi – own work by Patricia.fidi and Lt Paul – Originally from pl:Grafika:Orbitale.png, author pl:Wikipedysta:Chemmix.This W3C-unspecified vector image was created with Inkscape (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia