What makes an atom more likely to lose an electron and become a cation?

Does the exact location of the electrons maybe influence that? I know that you can't know the exact position of an electron until you measure it. This would prevent such experiments from taking place as you can't watch the electron before it would transfer to some other place as you either would not see the initial state as the transfer is already happening or you would prevent the transfer from happening altogether.

  • $\begingroup$ you can't know the exact position of an electron until you measure it Not quite. In an undisturbed atom, an electron doesn't actually have an exact location. $\endgroup$ – PM 2Ring Jun 5 at 11:35
  • $\begingroup$ @PM2Ring I guess this I based under the assumption that the Copenhagen interpretation is the right one? $\endgroup$ – Leander Studer Jun 6 at 6:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Not really, although some interpretations (eg Bohmian) do claim that the unobserved electron has an exact but unknown location, most interpretations don't. The electron is in a state with well-determined energy & momentum, so its position is delocalised over the orbital. That is, we have a formula that gives the probability of finding the electron within any given region. The different interpretations just disagree on how the electron manages to behave in accordance with that formula. $\endgroup$ – PM 2Ring Jun 6 at 6:47
  • $\begingroup$ I would really like to ask you some further questions in private as you have a really good way of explaining things, it there a way to contact you? $\endgroup$ – Leander Studer Jun 6 at 7:48
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, but I prefer to chat in public. When you have 20 points, you'll be able to post to chat rooms. The main Physics room is The h Bar. $\endgroup$ – PM 2Ring Jun 6 at 7:57

The environment of the atom plays a role. An isolated atom is likely to lose its electron due to ever-present background EM radiation, even if weak. When many other atoms are nearby, they help prevent loss of the electron, but for an isolated atom it is much more probable that the electron is free of the nucleus than being in a bound state with it. Hence the less dense a gas is, the more likely its atoms will become ionized by external radiation. Atoms in interstellar space are very rare and they are often strongly ionized.

  • $\begingroup$ How does this process of ripping an electron away from the nucleus with external radiation function? Any links to further readings about this process? What is it called? I'd like to see something explained in layman language as I'm not familiar with the math. And most importantly, what makes one electron more likely to be ripped away from it's nucleus by EM radiation than another one? And are there other effects which trigger this process? EM forces from other sources as maybe nearby atoms? $\endgroup$ – Leander Studer Jun 6 at 6:27
  • $\begingroup$ That is a vast topic, search for ionizing radiation, e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ionizing_radiation $\endgroup$ – Ján Lalinský Jun 6 at 17:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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