Take the 2-minute tour ×
Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Why the probability of density is higher in the area that is closer to the nucleus? I'm a high school student. I don't know much about wave functions.

share|improve this question
1  
This is the spoor of classical behaviour left in quantum physics: although the electron can, in an orbital, be in regions that it classically cannot be, it is most likely to be in regions that it would be in classically. You will find that your statement is only true for the ground state: in raised eigenstates the probability density is maximal in regions some distance from the nucleus. –  WetSavannaAnimal aka Rod Vance Feb 25 at 2:43
    
Here's a simple derivation that I like. Classically, we can still have our concept of force and energy but it needs to be supplemented by the uncertainty principle. feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/III_02.html#Ch2-S4 –  RdErdwien Feb 25 at 2:50
    
still, why in classical sense it works? Because of the attraction force and colomb force? –  user40003 Feb 25 at 3:03
    
@WetSavannaAnimalakaRodVance in fact, in S states the probability density is still at maximum close to nucleus. –  Ruslan Feb 27 at 17:56

3 Answers 3

First of all you have to consider that there's an electric force (Coulomb) between nucleus and electron, so, from a classical point of view it seems reasonable that electron "wants" to stay as closer as possible to the nucleus (they respectively attract). Now it's clearly impossible that electrons could reach nucleus, from an intuitive view points you can see it if you apply the Uncertainty Principle: if the position of electron is precisely define (at the origin if we put the nucleus in that position), electron must have infinite kinetic energy and this is obviously impossible. So electron reach the equilibrium position near the nucleus. Despite that it's clear that from a merely classical discussion electron is attract by the positive charge of nucleus so, as a consequence in every theory (QM too), the probability of density is higher near nucleus than far away from it.

share|improve this answer
    
Can you tell me more about the theory of uncertainty principle? –  user40003 Feb 28 at 2:19
    
For a complete (and elementary) treatment about atomic stability and Uncertainty principle i suggest you to read the relative paragraph in: Quantum Mechanics, Vol. 1 Claude Cohen-Tannoudji (Author), Bernard Diu (Author), Frank Laloe (Author) –  LC7 Feb 28 at 14:10

The short answer to your question is that in "nature;" energy, forces, and particles, operate in such a way that the energy or force needed to reach some kind of "stability" (equilibrium), is minimized. In the case of an electron, its "ground state" is the most stable, so the probability of "finding" it there, is very high (if not the highest).

share|improve this answer

For the 1s orbital the highest probability density exists inside the nucleus. Welcome to the subatomic world!

But there are many other orbitals where the density inside or near the nucleus is low. Look e.g. at http://www.chemistry.mcmaster.ca/esam/Chapter_3/section_2.html for details (note that a standard “hydrogen atom” mantra doesn’t signify much of restriction and in other atoms orbitals are not very different.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.