Electrons are found in a series of shells (or energy levels) around the nucleus of an atom.
Each energy level can only hold a certain number of electrons. Low energy levels are always filled up first.
Rules for working out the arrangement (configuration) of electrons:
Example – chlorine (Cl)
1) Use the periodic table to look up the atomic number. Chlorine’s atomic number (number of protons) is 17.
2) Remember the number of protons = number of electrons. Therefore chlorine has 17 electrons.
3) Arrange the electrons in levels (shells):
- 1st shell can hold a maximum of 2
- 2nd can hold a maximum of 8
- 3rd can also hold 8
Therefore the electron arrangement for chlorine (17 electrons in total) will be written as 2,8,7
4) Check to make sure that the electrons add up to the right number
The electron arrangement can also be draw in a diagram.
Electron arrangement for the first 20 elements: