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, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, August 29). Molecular Orbital Definition. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Molecular Orbital Definition." ThoughtCo. (accessed September 23, 2021).