Recommended questions on the road towards a scientific explanation of the periodic system of chemical elements with the help of the concepts of quantum physics

Foundations of Chemistry 9 (2):139-188 (2007)
Abstract
Periodic tables (PTs) are the ‘ultimate paper tools’ of general and inorganic chemistry. There are three fields of open questions concerning the relation between PTs and physics: (i) the relation between the chemical facts and the concept of a periodic system (PS) of chemical elements (CEs) as represented by PTs; (ii) the internal structure of the PS; (iii)␣The relation between the PS and atomistic quantum chemistry. The main open questions refer to (i). The fuzziness of the concepts of chemical properties and of chemical similarities of the CE and their compounds guarantees the autonomy of chemistry. We distinguish between CEs, Elemental Stuffs and Elemental Atoms. We comment on the basic properties of the basic elements. Concerning (ii), two sharp physical numbers (nuclear charge and number of valence electrons) and two coarse fuzzy ranges (ranges of energies and of spatial extensions of the atomic orbitals, AOs) characterize the atoms of the CEs and determine the two-dimensional structure of the PS. Concerning (iii), some relevant ‘facts’ about and from quantum chemistry are reviewed and compared with common ‘textbook facts’. What counts in chemistry is the whole set of nondiffuse orbitals in low-energy average configurations of chemically bonded atoms. Decisive for the periodicity are the energy gaps between the core and valence shells. Diffuse Rydberg orbitals and minute spin–orbit splittings are important in spectroscopy and for philosophers, but less so in chemical science and for the PS.
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