I am not a Chemist, but I took enough undergraduate Chemistry classes to understand the basic properties of s, p and d orbitals and how the behaviour of electrons contributes to different kinds of chemical bonds and elemental/molecular properties.
I stopped before we got to actual quantum mechanics - my maths wouldn't have been good enough to stand it. It still isn't.
However, I was always fascinated as to why none of the lecturers would ever tell us about f-orbitals. When asked, they muttered dark hints that they were significantly different from lower electron shells, and that explaining why was not only a waste of time but might spoil our existing understanding.
I left university 20 years ago, but I was suddenly blindsided by remembering this question out of nowhere. And now I want to know the answer. Google searches reveal a lot of maths that I can't follow. So can someone explain:
- What are some of the basic properties of elements with electrons in f-orbitals, and how do they differ from lower orbital positions?
- I assume this is related to the fact that most (all?) elements with f-orbitals manifest as metals, so how and why? And why do some elements without f-orbitals display metallic properties?
- Why were my tutors so unwilling to try and explain this to non-Chemists who were supposed to stop at their appreciation of lower orbitals and basic covalent bonds?