Plutonium Electron Configuration: 7 Facts You Should Know!


Plutonium is a radioactive element first produced in 1940 by the bombardment of uranium with deuterons. Let us deduce the electronic configuration of plutonium.

The electronic configuration of plutonium (Pu) is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 4s2 3d10 4p6 5s2 4d10 5p6 6s2 4f14 5d10 6p6 7s2 5f6. This radioactive actinide belongs to period 7 with an atomic number 94. The element is silvery grey in appearance that tarnishes on air exposure and therefore oxidizes to form a dull coating.

The element is known to exist in the form of nuclear fuel, nuclear weapons, their components, and nuclear wastes. In this article, we will systematically understand the structure and electronic configuration of plutonium.

How to write plutonium electron configuration

The configuration of plutonium is very anomalous due to its electronic structure.

  • The energy difference between the 6d and 5f subshells is very low.
  • The size of 5f shells is just enough to allow the electrons to form bonds within the lattice.
  • The electronic configuration is written as 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 4s2 3d10 4p6 5s2 4d10 5p6 6s2 4f14 5d10 6p6 7s2 5f6
  • The electrons are filled as 1s > 2s > 2p
  • Next set of electrons is filled as 3s > 3p > 4s > 3d
  • The next set of electrons are filled as 5s > 4d > 5p
  • Lastly the electrons are filled as 6s > 4f > 5d > 6p
  • And then followed by electrons in 7s > 5f

Plutonium electron configuration diagram

The diagram showcasing the electronic configuration of plutonium with respect to Aufbau’s, Pauli’s exclusion principle, and Hund’s rule is given below:

Plutonium electronic configuration

Plutonium electron configuration notation

The electronic configuration of plutonium can be annotated in the following two ways:

A. in terms of orbitals: 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 4s2 3d10 4p6 5s2 4d10 5p6 6s2 4f14 5d10 6p6 7s2 5f6

b. in terms of the nearest noble gas element: [Rn] 7s2 5f6

Plutonium unabbreviated electron configuration

The unabbreviated electronic configuration of plutonium is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 4s2 3d10 4p6 5s2 4d10 5p6 6s2 4f14 5d10 6p6 7s2 5f6

Ground state plutonium electron configuration

The ground state electronic configuration of plutonium is [Rn] 7s2 5f6

Excited state of plutonium electron configuration

The excited state electronic configuration of plutonium is [Rn] 7s2 5f5. The electrons are freely available in the 5f orbital and thus are excited easily.

Ground state plutonium orbital diagram

In the ground state of plutonium electrons are found to have been filled in the s, p, and d orbitals however the f orbitals contain 6 free electrons as shown below:

plutonium orbital diagram

Conclusions

Plutonium is very fissile to work in a nuclear chain reaction in their implications in nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors. Plutonium isotopes are expensive, inconvenient to separate, and dangerous to handle. Also, plutonium isotopes undergo radioactive decay-producing decay heat.

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