Video: Identifying the Subshell That Can Hold a Maximum of 14 Electrons in a Set of Subshells

Which of the following is the subshell that can hold a maximum of 14 electrons? [A] 2s [B] 3s [C] 3p [D] 4d [E] 4f

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Video Transcript

Which of the following is the subshell that can hold a maximum of 14 electrons? (A) 2s, (B) 3s, (C) 3p, (D) 4d, or (E) 4f.

Electrons occupy orbitals, which can each hold a maximum of two electrons: one that has an up spin and one that has a down spin. But each subshell has a different amount of orbitals that are inside of it. The type of subshell is indicated by the secondary or angular momentum quantum number, given by the letter L. Each value of L corresponds to a different shape of orbital, which we often see represented by the letters s, p, d, and f.

There’s just one kind of s orbital, which looks like a sphere. But there are three different p orbitals that all look like dumbbells of different orientations. One that would be vertical, one horizontal, and one that would be coming into and out of the screen. There are five orbitals that belong to the d subshell. Four of them look like clovers of different orientations. And one of them looks like a dumbbell with a donut around the middle. And finally, there are seven orbitals that correspond to the f subshell. The f orbitals are rather complicated to draw. So I’m not going to attempt to draw them here.

So looking at the number of orbitals that each subshell contains, we can see that it’s always an odd number. And the number of orbitals is always equal to two times the secondary or angular momentum quantum number for that subshell plus one. So, for example, the p subshell has an angular momentum quantum number of one. So two times one plus one gives us three, which is the number of orbitals in the p subshell.

Since each orbital can hold two electrons, one with an up spin and one with a down spin, in the s subshell, which only contains one orbital, we can only have two electrons. The p subshell has three orbitals total. So that means it can hold a maximum of six electrons. The d can hold 10, and finally the f subshells can all hold a maximum of 14 electrons.

In this question, we’re interested in which subshell can hold a maximum of 14 electrons. And this we can see from what we’ve just discussed. This would be the f subshell. Of our answer choices, the only one that corresponds to an f subshell is answer choice (E) 4f. So 4f is the subshell that can hold a maximum of 14 electrons.

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