|Themes > Science > Chemistry > General Chemistry > Atomic Structure > Electronic Structures of Atoms > Atomic Structure Index > Schrodinger quantum mechanical model|
Although theBohr model of the atom did a good job of explaining the spectrum of hydrogen, it failed with any element more complex than that. In the late 1920's the Austrian scientist Ernst Schrodinger developed the model that is still in use today
Schrodinger followed deBroglie's theory that attributes wave behavior to particles like electrons. Rather than treat the electron as a small particle, like Bohr, he decided to write an equation that treated the electron as a wave. (Solving this equation is hellaciously difficult for all but the most trivial problems and beyond the scope of this discussion.) Instead of knowing the position and momentum of an electron, the equation gives a wavefunction for the electron. This is a mathematical description of where the electron can be, but says nothing at all about where it actually is
In fact, in the quantum mechanical model you cannot say where the electron is to perfect precision: you can only give a probability that it is at a certain point.
The solution of the Schrodinger equation
for the hydrogen atom is somewhat complex. The result is a series of
possible wavefunctions, called orbitals, so named because they are
similar to classical orbits but only describe areas of space the electron
can be in. There are three quantum
numbers that describe what the orbital looks like: n, l and ml.
(A fourth, ms, was added later by an extension of the theory by