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When electrons quantum-leap from one place to another, do they spend some intermediate time in no location?

When an electron moves from one orbital to another, it basically teleports because it can’t exist between orbitals. But if that happens instantaneously, it would effectively travel faster than light over that small distance–infinitely fast, in fact. Does the electron reappear some time later as constrained by the speed of light? If so, where is the electron in the meantime, since it can’t be between orbitals? If not, how is it allowed to travel faster than light?

3 COMMENTS

  1. It can’t naturally exist in outside of the orbitals, but when energy is pumped in or let out, that force is overcome and the electron does go through the area between the orbitals.

  2. Quantum physics says there are no true orbits just an area where the electron is most likely to be. You are working on the bohr model of the atom which is a good teaching tool but is not at all what the atom is really like. When the elctron moves to a higher energy level (Orbit) it is between what you are taught as the orbits. In the quantum model of the atom electrons are not limited to a strict path.

  3. Quantum leaps are only possible between orbitals that overlap each other and the probability of leaping is proportional to the amount of overlap (actually since the wave functions are complex numbers it’s slightly more complicated than this).
    You can see what the orbitals look like and how they would overlap in the section “visualizing the hydrogen electron orbitals” in the first reference.
    Don’t worry about the non-overlapping parts of the orbits moving faster than light. Thats just how quantum mechanics works. Einstein didnt like this and wrote a paper about it in 1935 (second reference), but he turned out to be wrong.

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