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Can someone help explain the significance of Coulomb's Law to me? I don't understand why Coulombs Law states that the electrostatic energy is lower at a larger distance, but electrons further from the nucleus have higher energies. These statements seem to contradict each other, so I'm confused. Thank you
I think the reason why electron potential energies are higher the further they are from the nucleus is because if the atom loses the electron it would be more unstable. The fewer valence electron there are the more unstable they can become.
Coulomb's Law refers to the force created between two charged objects (the force that two electrons exert on each other, in this case). According to Coulomb's law, the force that is exerted is inversely proportional to the distance between the object, which is why there is a weaker force for electrons that are farther apart. This makes sense when looking at the equation (F=q1q2/r^2) as you are dividing by the radius, or distance between the two charged objects.
So when one says that electrons at a higher energy level have more energy, this means that they have more Kinetic energy -- or the energy of movement. conversely, when electrons are at lower energy levels -- they don't lose their energy, at lower energy levels they have more potential energy -- which is sometimes confused with not having any energy at all. However, the electrostatic energy decreases as the electron goes to further form the atom as the potential energy between the electron and the atom decreases and the electron has more energy for movement. You always have to remember the second law of thermodynamics -- energy cannot be created or destroyed.
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