Molecular Orbital Definition

Abstract atom
A molecular orbital is a mathematical function that describes an electron in a molecule.

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A molecular orbital is an orbital or wave function of a molecule's electron. The function may be used to calculate the probability of finding an electron within a specified space or to predict the molecule's chemical and physical properties. Robert Mulliken introduced the term "orbital" in 1932 to describe a one-electron orbital wave function.

Electrons around a molecule can be associated with more than one atom and are often expressed as a combination of atomic orbitals. Atomic orbitals within a molecule can interact if they have compatible symmetries. The number of molecular orbitals is equal to the number of atomic orbitals combined to form a molecule.

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Molecular Orbital Definition." ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2020, thoughtco.com/definition-of-molecular-orbital-605367. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, August 29). Molecular Orbital Definition. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/definition-of-molecular-orbital-605367 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Molecular Orbital Definition." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/definition-of-molecular-orbital-605367 (accessed September 23, 2021).