I'm interested in chemical reaction mechanisms with more exotic particles. The Wikipedia page seems to imply that the normal atomic oxygen is $O(^3P)$, is that right?

I also came across $O(^1D),O(^1S),O(^5P)$ and some longer strings like $O(3S3s)$. What are the atomic oxygen species, or at least these which we can expect to see in the parts per millions range or a little below, in oxidation processes specifically? How to know which I left out?


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In this context atom means isolated atom, which has defined quantum states. This is to be distinguished from atom in a molecule, which is an entirely conceptual construction that has no strict definition or physical meaning. Atoms in a molecule have no defined quantum states.

That is, only an isolated oxygen atom outside a molecule can have designations like $O(^3P)$, etc. For molecules, term symbols belong to the entire molecule, not individual atoms.

In oxidation reactions, atomic oxygen is rarely involved. It can only be formed when a very large amount of excess energy is available, such as in combustion or ignition processes, or in a radiation-rich environment such as outer space. There, the majority of atomic oxygen should be the most stable species $O(^3P)$. However, in these high-energy scenarios, all the other low-lying states of oxygen will also be present in smaller quantities.


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