The electron configuration for $\ce{Fe^2+}$ in my coursebook is given as: $$ 1\mathrm s^2\, 2\mathrm s^2\, 2\mathrm p^6\, 3\mathrm s^2\, 3\mathrm p^6\,3\mathrm d^6$$

But shouldn't the $4\mathrm s$ subshell take precedent over the $3\mathrm d$ subshell according to Aufbaus principle?Aufbaus principle

  • $\begingroup$ For formatting, See here and here. For a more detailed MathJax guide, look here, minor other details $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 12, 2020 at 18:27
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    $\begingroup$ Try writing the configuration of $\ce{Fe}$ and then remove two electrons from the outermost shell (higher n-value is farther) $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 12, 2020 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ Remember releasing of electrons is not the reverse order of their filling, as orbital energies change. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Commented Sep 12, 2020 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ I would like to suggest this question as another dupe target, but if I vote to close it will be Golden-Mjölnir’d (dupehammered with a golden badge). $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 7:52

1 Answer 1


You might want to compare iron(II) not with neutral iron, but with neutral chromium.

Both iron(II) and neutral chromium have 24 electrons, but there the similarity ends:

$\ce{Fe^{2+}}: [\text{Ar}]3d^6$

$\ce{Cr^{0}}: [\text{Ar}]3d^54s^1$

Think of the Bohr model. According to this model the energy level of electrons depends only on the shell number $n$, so we would expect 24 electrons to follow the $[\text{Ar}]3d^6$ configuration. In real life that happens exactly only for single-electron atoms where there are only electron-nucleus interactions. When there are electron-electron interactions they could fill the shells not in order, like the chromium atom described above.

But in a multielectron atom, if you add more nuclear charge you make the electron-nucleus interaction stronger, and the Bohr-model configuration becomes more favorable. One might suppose that dozens of added protons might be needed to get chromium's $[\text{Ar}]3d^54s^1$ to the Bohr-predicted $[\text{Ar}]3d^6$. Instead, the energies of the two configurations are so closely spaced that two extra protons, converting neutral chromium to ferrous iron, is enough.

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    $\begingroup$ Could someone also mention a concrete experimental way of determining this configuration perhaps spectroscopically? Electron configurations look like fairy tales now. How come these single electron wave functions were applied on complex ions of Fe and Co? $\endgroup$
    – ACR
    Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 4:53
  • $\begingroup$ Oscar, That is a very hand waving answer by that person. He just scattered the answer with fancy names of X-ray techniques. Electron configurations "existed" well before XPS and other plethora of X-ray techniques were discovered. $\endgroup$
    – ACR
    Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 13:49

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