# How to write electronic configuration of p-orbitals?

For example, the electronic configuration for the element boron can be writen as:

1s2 2s2 2p1

However, it is can be written more accurately by taking the different p-orbitals into account:

The electronic configuration with the different p-orbitals starting from boron ascending in atomic number:

B - 1s2 2s2 2px1

C - 1s2 2s2 2px1 2py1

N - 1s2 2s2 2px1 2py1 2pz2

O - 1s2 2s2 2px2 2py1 2pz2

F - 1s2 2s2 2px2 2py1 2pz2

Each type of 'p-orbital' can hold a maximum of 2 electrons. But the way they are assigned to which orbital is not always systematic e.g. the electrons do no wait till, pX orbital is full to be able to fill the next one (I know this has something to do with energy levels and trends in periodic table).

Can someone tell me how this works and how I can use it to be able to write electronic configurations for p-orbitals. It is much easier just using the summation of px + py + pz = pX; but my teacher sometimes writes it out fully...

• Please explain what exactly you want to know in 'how this works'; do you want to know how the Hund's rule works out or the nomenclature system? Apr 19 '19 at 17:34
• Remember also that even the "more accurate" notation you've used is somewhat artificial. Consider, e.g., "C: $1s^2 2s^2 2p_x^1 2p_y^1$. This notation may suggest the two 2p electrons occupy the $2p_x \text{ and } 2p_y$ orbitals, leaving the $2p_z$ orbital empty. But that's not the case; the electrons can't tell the difference among them – they're equivalent orbitals. Instead, the two 2p electrons are evenly distributed across the $2p_x, 2p_y, \text{ and } 2p_z$ orbitals. For this reason carbon, as well as all other isolated atoms, have spherically symmetric electron distributions. Apr 20 '19 at 0:55
• @theorist; I’m not sure what you mean by “electrons can’t tell the difference among them” - doesn’t that go against Hund’s rule? Apr 20 '19 at 1:51
• (cont.) that before filling up one orbital that is halfly occupied it first fills orbitals with similar energy; I don’t believe the assignment of e- is purely random ... what I don’t understand is why the p values don’t add up to the total summative p value for Nitrogen, Oxygen and Fluorine. F has 3e-s in its 2p shell, O has 4e-s in its 2p shell etc. Apr 20 '19 at 2:04
• What we label as $p_x, p_y, \text{ and } p_z$ are arbitrary (e.g., you could switch what you label as $p_y \text{ and } p_z$). In the absence of an external field, they're degenerate. The two 2p electrons in carbon thus occupy a linear combination of those three orbitals. And physically, considering $e^-–e^-$ repulsion, it makes sense that the two electrons would want to spread their density among all three orbitals, rather than being confined to two of them. It's been a while since I've played with the details of Hund's rule, so perhaps someone else could address your Hund's rule question. Apr 20 '19 at 4:14