The best way to calm atoms

3 Modules 9 Articles Intermediate

About this course

Atoms with an unmatched electron in their s orbital  are very active.  The best way to calm them down is to match them up.  

Many times, energy is released. Why and how does that happen? 

This course looks at hydrogen atoms when they join to form H2, or hydrogen gas. The goal is to visualize how the two electrons of two hydrogen atoms come together to form a “solid” bond. 

But first, let’s discuss very fast creatures.


Picture credit: By  BlueRingMedia . Shutterstock ID 152409845. Illustration of the element Hydrogen. 

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Course Structure

3 Articles

I. Changing our reality

The first module describes how small and very fast entities behave.

By the end of this module, you will be able to visualize how our reality changes depending on our size and the speed at which we move.

Picture credit: By Tatiana53. Shutterstock ID: 10939195. Sphere. 3d. 

1. Small things play to a different drummer

Elements that are very small move faster. 

This article begins the discussion on small things and their speed.

2. Seeing things as one

When things move very fast, we can barely see them as individual objects.

There are many examples of single entities blending into a composite image when motion is added. 

3. What is our reality?

Our reality will change depending on our size and the speed with which we move.

3 Articles

II. Encircling the nucleus

Hydrogen, with its lone electron has the perfect s orbital.

This module brings in the concepts from the first module and discusses the hydrogen atom.

By the end of this module, you should be able to see how electrons behave, particularly within s orbitals. In these orbitals, one electron can envelope the nucleus like a shroud. 

Picture credit: By Designua. Structure atom Helium and Hydrogen., ID: 111779942.

4. Hydrogen atom

First, let's talk about the hydrogen atom. Hydrogen is the most prevalent element in the Universe.

It is also the most versatile.

Its lone s orbital electron can navigate different energy shells fluidly to form 3 separate states. 

5. The reality of electrons

The electron is moving so astonishingly fast that it creates layer upon layer of electrons between us and the nucleus.

Keep in mind that this is only one electron creating this cloud.  The blanket of electrons around the nucleus is the atomic s orbital. 

6. Rules of engagement

When atoms with lone s-orbital electrons come together, the electrons have to follow certain rules.

This would be similar to the rules that we would follow when we share an apartment with roommates.

Given electrons are constantly in motion, why are the bonds between atoms solid?

Why don't the electrons leave, allowing the bonds to disintegrate?

3 Articles

III. Creating a "solid" 2 electron bond

Two hydrogen atoms will come together to form hydrogen gas (H2). 

What creates a "solid" 2 electron bond? It seems difficult to appreciate why the bond is relatively strong, given that electrons are still active, even when in a molecular orbital.

Picture credit: By magnetix. MO theory - LCAO method for hydrogen., ID: 356996288.

7. Creating 2 electron states

The hydrogen molecule has 2 electrons forming a "solid" 2 electron bond keeping the two atoms close together. 

How does that happen when the electrons are moving all over the place in the spherical s orbital?

8. Anti-bonding and bonding electrons

The two hydrogen atom electrons have multiple options: bonding, non-bonding, and anti-bonding positions. However, they have the least energy when they are in a bonding position - between the 2 nuclei.

9. A “solid” bond

Why is the hydrogen bond (with just two electrons) a pretty solid bond?