Science, Tech, Math › Science Subshell Definition (Electron) What Is a Subshell in Chemistry? Share Flipboard Email Print The f subshell, shown here, is partially full in atoms of Lanthanide elements. DR MARK J. WINTER, Getty Images Science Chemistry Chemical Laws Basics Molecules Periodic Table Projects & Experiments Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated November 04, 2019 A subshell is a subdivision of electron shells separated by electron orbitals. Subshells are labelled s, p, d, and f in an electron configuration. Subshell Examples Here is a chart of subshells, their names, and the number of electrons they can hold: Subshell ℓ Maximum Electrons Shells Containing It Name s 0 2 every shell sharp p 1 6 2nd and higher principal d 2 10 3rd and higher diffuse f 3 14 4th and higher fundamental For example, the first electron shell is the 1s subshell. The second shell of electrons contains the 2s and 2p subshells. Relating Shells, Subshells, and Orbitals Each atom has an electron shell, which is labeled K, L, M, N, O, P, Q or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, moving from the shell closest to the atomic nucleus and moving outward. Electrons in outer shells have higher average energy than those in inner shells. Each shell consists of one or more subshells. Each subshells is composed of atomic orbitals. Source Jue, T. "Quantum Mechanic Basic to Biophysical Methods." Fundamental Concepts in Biophysics. Humana Press, 2009, New York. What Is a Quantum Number? See the Electron Configuration Diagrams for Atoms of the Elements What Is the Bohr Model of the Atom? What Is Electron Configuration? What Is the Aufbau Principle? What Do S, P, D, and F Mean in Chemistry, and Why Do You Need Them? Understand the Pauli Exclusion Principle Atomic Radius Measures the Size of an Atom, but It's Imprecise What Is Ionization Energy? How to Draw a Lewis Structure How to Draw Lewis Structures or Electron Dot Structures Do You Know Which Elements Are Transition Metals? What the Aufbau Principle Means in Chemistry What Is the Most Metallic Element? These Are the Exceptions to the Octet Rule What Is an Antibonding Orbital?