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When asked which orbital is lowest in energy, should we look at the principal quantum number (n) or angular momentum quantum number (l, determines whether s,p,d,etc subshell)? As in, would 3d be lower in energy, or would 4s be lower?
The quantum number n gives the energy level while the angular momentum quantum number tells you the subshell of the electron. So use n as l does not give you information about the energy level. For potassium and Calcium 4s has lower energy than 3d which may seem counterintuitive, but for Scandium through Zinc 3d is slightly lower in energy than 4s.
If we consider an elementary model of atoms and their quantum structure I believe we should use the principal quantum value or the "n value" to determine the relative levels of energy. However, it should be taken into consideration that, for example, the 3d orbital is higher in energy than the 4s orbital until it gains an electron.
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