Orbitals & Subshells


Orbitals are the region around a nucleus where there is a high probability of locating an electron. There are 4 kinds to be aware of now:

  1. s-orbital
  2. p-orbital
  3. d-orbital
  4. f-orbital


An s-orbital refers to an orbital spherical in shape. There is only one type of s-orbital.


A p-orbital refers to an orbital along a single axis. There are three kinds of p-orbitals:

The subscript refers to the axis along which the orbital takes place.


A d-orbital refers to an orbital along two axes. There are 5 kinds of d-orbitals:


Information on this is not needed for now. Just note that this is very rare and that there are 7 kinds of f-orbitals.

Fitting Electrons into Orbitals

Each orbital has enough room for no more than 2 electrons.


A subshell is a group of (degenrate) orbitals. A p subshell, for example, will refer to \(p_x\), \(p_y\) and \(p_z\) orbitals. The types noted above are the respective s-subshells, p-subshells, d-subshells and f-subshells.

Degenerate Orbitals

The same type of orbit, but in different directions.

Fitting Electrons into Subshells

This is simply the sum of the total electrons that can fit into a subshell. Remember that an orbital can have no more than 2 electrons. Hence, if the p-subshell (as an example) as 3 types of orbitals, then a total of 6 can fit in the subshell.


Maximum electrons: 2


Maximum electrons: 6


Maximum electrons: 10


Maximum electrons: 14

This article was written on 02/10/2023. If you have any thoughts, feel free to send me an email with them. Have a nice day!