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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

Table of Contents

Abstract Volume 18 (2013) pp 279-286
DOI 10.1007/s00897132515

An Understandable Explanation of the Ground State Electron Configurations of the First-row Transition Metals for Undergraduate Students: An Exercise in Critical Thinking and Analysis

J. Dominic Smith

Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Lipscomb University, 1 University Park Drive, Nashville, TN 37204,
Received October 26, 2012. Accepted August 7, 2013.

Published: 28 October 2013

Abstract. A number of authors have, over the years, contributed much to the explanation for the observed ground state electron configurations of the first-row transition metals. However, textbooks, and therefore undergraduate students, continue to approach the issue of “anomalous” electron configurations in the first-row transition metals in an extremely narrow fashion that focuses upon a single factor at a time, when there are several competing factors to be considered. A simple but thorough qualitative analysis of the ground state electron configurations of the first-row transition metals and the issue of anomalous configurations can be conducted. This is accomplished by enumerating and exploring the factors that contribute to the configurations and then examining individual metals in light of those factors and the driving force each has for a given metal to adopt a given electron configuration. The end result is an intellectual exercise in critical thinking that can be carried out by inorganic chemistry students that yields satisfying and understandable answers but also raises interesting questions.

Key Words: In the Classroom; inorganic chemistry; electron configuration; transition metal; undergraduate; aufbau principle; orbital energy; critical thinking

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