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Valence Electrons

Relationship between outer shell electrons and atomic reactivity.

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The Party Limo Ride Problem

Why is it that party limos like to be filled?

License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Filling a party limo, just like filling an orbital of an atom [Figure1]

Valence electrons are the electrons in the outermost shell of an atom. Since there are 8 columns in the periodic table as you exclude the transition metals, an atom can only have a maximum of 8 valence electrons. As you move from column to column to the right on the periodic table, the number of valence electrons increases.

In bonding, it is the valence electrons that move from one atom to another. The tendency of any atom is to reach 8 valence electrons, where it becomes a stable state. This can be done by either gaining enough to fill an orbital of 8 electrons or losing enough such that a lower orbital will contain the set of valence electrons.  That’s why non-metals often times bond with alkali and alkaline earth metals in the first two columns of the periodic table. Since noble gases already have 8 valence electrons, they rarely get involved in bonding.

For example, filling the seats in a party limo is an example of valence electrons. Party limos like to be filled as more people means more partying. The seats in a party limo can represent the outer orbital of an atom.

Creative Applications

1. What do each seat in the party limo represent?

2. Suppose you have a party limo with only one person and another party limo with only one open seat. What does the lone person in the first party limo wish to have happen?

3. A party limo with full capacity is like which group of elements in the periodic table?

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  1. [1]^ License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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