Orbital

 

In the approximation that each electron in a molecule has a distinct, independent wave function, the spatial distribution of an electron wave function corresponds to a molecular orbital. These, in turn, can be approximated as sums of contributions from the orbitals characteristic of the isolated atoms. An electron added to a molecule--or, similarly, one excited to a higher-energy state within a molecule--would occupy a state with a different wave function from the rest; an unoccupied state of this kind corresponds to an unoccupied molecular orbital. Orbital-symmetry effects on reaction rates arise when a reaction requires overlap between two lobes of the orbitals on each of two reagents: if the algebraic signs of the wave functions in the facing lobes do not match, bond formation between those orbitals is prohibited.

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