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Concept# Linear combination of atomic orbitals

Summary

A linear combination of atomic orbitals or LCAO is a quantum superposition of atomic orbitals and a technique for calculating molecular orbitals in quantum chemistry. In quantum mechanics, electron configurations of atoms are described as wavefunctions. In a mathematical sense, these wave functions are the basis set of functions, the basis functions, which describe the electrons of a given atom. In chemical reactions, orbital wavefunctions are modified, i.e. the electron cloud shape is changed, according to the type of atoms participating in the chemical bond.
It was introduced in 1929 by Sir John Lennard-Jones with the description of bonding in the diatomic molecules of the first main row of the periodic table, but had been used earlier by Linus Pauling for H2+.
An initial assumption is that the number of molecular orbitals is equal to the number of atomic orbitals included in the linear expansion. In a sense, n atomic orbitals combine to form n molecular orbitals, which can be numbered i = 1 to n and which may not all be the same. The expression (linear expansion) for the i th molecular orbital would be:
or
where is a molecular orbital represented as the sum of n atomic orbitals , each multiplied by a corresponding coefficient , and r (numbered 1 to n) represents which atomic orbital is combined in the term. The coefficients are the weights of the contributions of the n atomic orbitals to the molecular orbital. The Hartree–Fock method is used to obtain the coefficients of the expansion.
The orbitals are thus expressed as linear combinations of basis functions, and the basis functions are single-electron functions which may or may not be centered on the nuclei of the component atoms of the molecule. In either case the basis functions are usually also referred to as atomic orbitals (even though only in the former case this name seems to be adequate). The atomic orbitals used are typically those of hydrogen-like atoms since these are known analytically i.e.

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Basis set (chemistry)

In theoretical and computational chemistry, a basis set is a set of functions (called basis functions) that is used to represent the electronic wave function in the Hartree–Fock method or density-functional theory in order to turn the partial differential equations of the model into algebraic equations suitable for efficient implementation on a computer. The use of basis sets is equivalent to the use of an approximate resolution of the identity: the orbitals are expanded within the basis set as a linear combination of the basis functions , where the expansion coefficients are given by .

Molecular orbital theory

In chemistry, molecular orbital theory (MO theory or MOT) is a method for describing the electronic structure of molecules using quantum mechanics. It was proposed early in the 20th century. In molecular orbital theory, electrons in a molecule are not assigned to individual chemical bonds between atoms, but are treated as moving under the influence of the atomic nuclei in the whole molecule. Quantum mechanics describes the spatial and energetic properties of electrons as molecular orbitals that surround two or more atoms in a molecule and contain valence electrons between atoms.

Orbital hybridisation

In chemistry, orbital hybridisation (or hybridization) is the concept of mixing atomic orbitals to form new hybrid orbitals (with different energies, shapes, etc., than the component atomic orbitals) suitable for the pairing of electrons to form chemical bonds in valence bond theory. For example, in a carbon atom which forms four single bonds the valence-shell s orbital combines with three valence-shell p orbitals to form four equivalent sp3 mixtures in a tetrahedral arrangement around the carbon to bond to four different atoms.

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