Could anybody explain the following statement:

"The boundary surface is a common way to represent atomic orbitals, incorporating the volume in which there is about a 90 percent probability of finding the electron at any given time.

I don't understand what does the author means starting from "incorporating the volume.."

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Other people might call them "isosurfaces." In reality, orbitals are more like "electron clouds." $\endgroup$ – Geoff Hutchison Mar 13 '15 at 16:55

It means that the boundary surface is a closed surface or set of closed surfaces, such that there is a 90% chance that an electron is interior of the closed surface and a 10% chance that the electron is exterior of the closed surface.

A better way of specifying how an orbital is represented is "equal probability boundary surface" which further specifies that each point on the surface must have any equal electron probablity density, and the surface must be a closed surface or set of closed surfaces with a 90% (or other percent) chance of containing the electron at a given time.

Without the "equal probability" statement there are infinite different boundary surfaces for each orbital (infinite different ways to enclose 90% of the probability density).


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