Atomic Properties / Structure

How a Photon Is Created or Absorbed

Giles Henderson
Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL 61920

Robert C. Rittenhouse
Walla Walla College, College Place, WA 99324

John C. Wright and Jon L. Holmes
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706

Clarifying Electron Configurations

We’ve all seen and use the so-called Aufbau Diagram. It is a mnemonic used to remember the order of “filling” of atomic orbitals during the construction of the ground state electron configurations of the elements. The presentation of this diagram is largely disconnected from any physical meaning. Here’s what we tell our students: “Memorize the diagram, learn to use it, and you’re guaranteed to get the right answer.”

Conversations, Confessions, Confusions (and hopefully some Clarity) on Electronic Configurations

A complete understanding of why each element has a particular electronic configurations is a very complex subject. Even so, some confusion regarding the electronic configurations of the elements may be alleviated by looking at the physical properties of the electronic orbitals.

The Search for the Final Element

Have you ever wondered what is the theoretically largest possible value for the atomic number of an element? Using some introductory physics and algebra, you can get your students thinking about this idea.

Target Inquiry Activities

Are kids learning? Given the time it takes to implement and grade the activity, do I get a lot of "educational moments" out of it? Does it fit into the culture of the classroom? Is there a great deal of "conceptually rich" material in the activity that students can build on? I believe that two activities I tried this week fit the bill.

How Many Colors in Your Computer? Discovering the Rules for Making Colors

In this Activity, students investigate the colors displayed on a computer monitor with a magnifying glass. They then mix colors first using light, then using paints or crayons. This Activity could be used in discussions of solid state chemistry when LEDs, phosphors, or liquid crystals are discussed.

Putting UV-Sensitive Beads to the Test

In this Activity, students observe UV-sensitive beads that have been melted into flat disks, explore the temperature behavior of the disks, and then use the disks to investigate the effectiveness of different sunscreens. The Activity shows applications of chemistry in the real world.