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Question Video: Identifying When an Electron Is in an Excited State Physics

An electron that is part of an atom has greater energy than the minimum energy possible for electrons in that atom. Is the electron in an excited state?

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Video Transcript

An electron that is part of an atom has greater energy than the minimum energy possible for electrons in that atom. Is the electron in an excited state?

In this question, we are asked to work out whether a particular electron in an atom is in an excited state. First, let’s recall that electrons in an atom can occupy different energy levels. For example, let’s think about a hydrogen atom, which only has one electron. The electron in this atom can occupy one of many different energy levels.

We can represent these energy levels using an energy level diagram, like this. This level right at the bottom represents the minimum possible energy for the electron and is called the ground state. Each of these higher-up levels corresponds to a greater and greater energy, and these levels are called excited states. Remember, too, that an electron’s energy must correspond to a certain state. It’s not possible for an electron’s energy to be in between levels.

In this question, we’re considering an electron that has greater energy than the minimum possible energy, which tells us that the electron is definitely not in the ground state. In order to be in the ground state, an electron must have the minimum possible energy, which we know isn’t the case here. And if an electron isn’t in the ground state, it must occupy one of the higher energy states, or an excited state.

So the answer to this question is yes. The electron is in an excited state.

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