energy level

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A definite fixed energy that a molecule, atom, electron, or nucleus can have. In an atom, for example, the atom has a fixed energy corresponding to the orbitals in which its electrons move around the nucleus. The atom can accept a quantum of energy to become an excited atom (see excitation) if that extra energy will raise an electron to a permitted orbital. Between the ground state, which is the lowest possible energy level for a particular system, and the first excited state there are no permissible energy levels. According to the quantum theory, only certain energy levels are possible. An atom passes from one energy level to the next without passing through fractions of that energy transition. These levels are usually described by the energies associated with the individual electrons in the atoms, which are always lower than an arbitrary level for a free electron. The energy levels of molecules also involve quantized vibrational and rotational motion.

Subjects: Chemistry.

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