Why Do Atoms Have Different Shapes?

The easy answer is that atoms are not spherical in shape.

Sphere is a solid object, atoms to not have well defined boundaries with “solid cutoffs”.

Atoms are more like clouds consisting distributions of electrons, neutrons and protons.

Atoms, per definition, are electrons + a single nucleus, ie.

Why do orbitals have different shapes?

Shapes of atomic orbitals. The atomic orbitals differ in shape. That is, the electrons they describe have different probability distributions around the nucleus. The electron is more likely to be found somewhere inside the spherical boundary surface than outside it.

Can atoms change shape?

The changing shape of an atomic nucleus. The nucleus of an atom can have different shapes that co-exist. A different number of protons (and thus electrons) means a different element. However, a given element can have several forms (isotopes) depending on the number of neutrons in the nucleus.

What determines orbital shape?

The three coordinates that come from Schr�dinger’s wave equations are the principal (n), angular (l), and magnetic (m) quantum numbers. These quantum numbers describe the size, shape, and orientation in space of the orbitals on an atom. The angular quantum number (l) describes the shape of the orbital.

Are atoms actually round?

The nucleus is round for the reasons described above (i.e. for the same reason planets are round, substituting nuclear forces for gravity). The shape of an atom could be considered to be defined by its outer electron orbitals. These aren’t all round.