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Tips on Deciding if an Atom is Excited - Concept

Teacher/Instructor Kendal Orenstein
Kendal Orenstein

Rutger's University
M.Ed., Columbia Teachers College

Kendal founded an academic coaching company in Washington D.C. and teaches in local area schools. In her spare time she loves to explore new places.

Tips on deciding if an atom is excited. What the heck is excited? So excited is when an atom absorbs energy from an outside source, and the electrons jump to a higher energy level.

So here, we have a diagram. Down here is a nucleus, and here is energy diagram of all the principal energy levels of where an electron can be located. This goes up to infinity. We have an infinite amount of principal energy levels.

So notice that between 1, and 2 we have the highest energy gap. Then it gets smaller, and smaller as we get to higher and higher energy levels. In an excited electron so atoms what they do, and we'll get to talk about excited ,what they do is they fill in the energy level that's most unoccupied and lowest energy. So first electrons are going to n equals 1, then n equals 2, n equals 3, and so on, and so forth.

But first, I'll do n equals 1, because it's the lowest energy level possible. What excited atoms do, is absorb energy and they're like I can go to higher energy levels. So if an electron was at n equals 1, it would jump up to n equals 2, or 3, or 4. However much energy it absorbs, is what it will jump up to energy state of. It means it's not at ground state.

Ground state is the opposite of excited. Ground state is when it's at the lowest energy level. So ground state would be an electron being at the lowest energy possible in this case n equals 1. When it absorbs energy from an outside source, it jumps up energy levels and becomes excited. So you might see electron configuration of a ground state would be for Magnesium. What's the electron configuration for Magnesium? It's 1s², 2s², 2p9, 3s²6. This is for the ground state. This is the lowest energy level possible for all the electrons available.

Magnesium when it absorbs energy, some electrons are going to go to the higher energy levels. So it might be for example this could be a possibility. It's not always the same; 1s², 2s², 2p6 which is so far fine. Let's say it jumps up to 4p². These two electrons jumped up a couple energy levels. This would be excited state, because these guys have jumped at at a higher energy level. It started off here, and it jumped up to there; from the third energy level to the fourth energy level.

So hopefully you can decide if an atom is excited based on many things; based on electronic configuration, based on energy diagrams. There are many ways to decide if an atom is excited or not. Hope that helped.