# Change in shape of Atomic Orbitals

We have studied that electron's position around the nucleus is given by probability distribution function, which determines the shape of atomic orbitals. Does the shapes of orbitals change with factors such as electric fields, magnetic fields, high temperatures, intense gravitational fields even with excitation of atom?

Will the electron just change its orbital and the shapes of orbitals would be unaffected?

• Consider an orbital as a cloud of electrons. Try to use regular electrostatic theory in case of electric field. – Pritt Balagopal Apr 15 '17 at 8:46
• @PrittBalagopal, but can such a complex shape of orbitals simply be predicted by considering electrostatic forces? – Vasu Goyal Apr 15 '17 at 8:53
• – Yashas Apr 15 '17 at 9:11
• @Yashas would you please explain how the spectral lines are related to shape of orbitals? What I am searching for is actually a new probability distribution of position, (shape of orbitals) – Vasu Goyal Apr 15 '17 at 9:24
• @VasuGoyal I do not have thorough knowledge about the details. Someone who understands it really well will answer. – Yashas Apr 15 '17 at 9:25

Does the shapes of orbitals change with factors such as electric fields, magnetic fields,

In quantum mechanics, any new extra potentials , as an introduction of an electric or a magnetic field, will lead to new solutions for the orbitals.

Example : the Zeeman effect in hydrogen:

When an external magnetic field is applied, sharp spectral lines like the n=3→ 2 transition of hydrogen split into multiple closely spaced line

So one energy level splits into two because of the spin of the electron, and thus one orbital becomes two.

So it will depend on the specific problem.

high temperatures,

No, temperature has to do with the average kinetic energy and possible interactions, it is not a field/potential

intense gravitational fields even with excitation of atom?

Again, a solution of the extra potential to the atomic potential has to be studied. Gravitational fields are weak, and also at the moment there is not unification of the three forces and gravity and only effective quantum mechanics exists for gravitational fields, so it will all be a matter of assumptions.

Will the electron just change its orbital and the shapes of orbitals would be unaffected?

For an electron to change an orbital, the atom has to absorb a photon of the appropriate energy. New solutions as in the Zeeman effect, can be considered as a change in orbital , but it is a different state, "atom + extra field".

• Thanks for this superb answer, thats exactly what I was digging for, Again, a solution of the extra potential to the atomic potential has to be studied. Gravitational fields are weak, and also at the moment there is not unification of the three forces and gravity and only effective quantum mechanics exists for gravitational fields, so it will all be a matter of assumptions. Well I didn't get this part can you throw some light on it? – Vasu Goyal Apr 15 '17 at 10:44
• Gravity is a different type of field, and has not been quantized. There exist effective quantization theories in cosmological models, but unless one knows how the strong/weak/electromagnetic/gravity behave in a unified quantum mechanical model, one has to assume effective interactions. This is not the case for the magnetic field and the atom, for example. There we know rigorously that quantum mechanical solutions, (which may be complicated) exist. No assumptions are needed. If it comes out that a string theory unifies everything, – anna v Apr 15 '17 at 11:28
• then one should use that formalism to see the effects of gravitational fields on atomic structure/orbitals. – anna v Apr 15 '17 at 11:28