# TERM SYMBOLS

Dr. Cyriac Mathew

Atomic Term Symbols
In many-electron atoms the electron configuration is rather ambiguous. For example,
consider the ground state electron configuration of a carbon atom, 1s
2
2s
2
2p
2
. The two 2p
electrons could be in any of the three 2p orbitals and have any spin consistent with Pauli
Exclusion Principle. This may give rise to several atomic energy states because of the effects of
inter-electron repulsions. Therefore, we need a more detailed designation of the electronic states
of the atom. Such detailed designation of the electronic states of the atom is called term. The
corresponding energy levels are represented using the term symbol. A term symbol tells us
something about the angular momentum of the electrons in the atom.
Spin-orbit coupling
An electron is a charged particle, and hence its orbital angular momentum gives rise to a
magnetic field just as an electric current in a
loop gives rise to magnetic field in an
electromagnet. Thus an electron with an orbital
angular momentum possesses magnetic
moment. The magnetic moment due to orbital
motion is given as
l e
l u ¸ = ,
e
¸ is the
magnetogyric ratio of the electron and l is the
orbital angular momentum. An electron also has
a spin angular momentum. This intrinsic
spinning motion also gives rise to magnetic
moment. The spin magnetic moment is given by
2
s e
s u ¸ = .Where s is the spin angular
momentum. The spin magnetic moment is twice
the value of the spin angular momentum. For
electrons the magnetic moment is opposite to
the angular momentum; see figure 1.
Thus there are two sources for magnetic
moment for the electrons. These two magnetic
moments can interact and give rise to shifts in
energies of the states of the atom. The
interaction of these two magnetic moments is
called spin-orbit coupling. The strength of the
coupling, and its effect on the energy levels of
the atom depend on the relative orientations of the spin and orbital magnetic moments, and hence
on the relative orientations of the spin and orbital angular momenta. The total angular
N
N
S
S
N
N
S
S
High J
Low J
u
S
N
l
l
s
s
u
l
u
l
u
u
s
s
l : Orbital angular momentum
u
l
: Orbital magnetic moment
s : spin angular momentum
u
s
spin magnetic moment
:
J: Total angular momentum
Fig. 1
2 Term Symbols Lecture notes

momentum of the electron is the vector sum of its spin and orbital momenta. Thus when the spin
and orbital angular momenta are nearly parallel the total angular momentum is high; when the
two angular momenta are opposed, the total angular momentum is low. When the total angular
momentum (J) is high, the total energy also is high (unfavourable orientation of magnetic
moments), and when the total angular momentum (J) is low, the total energy also is low
(favourable orientation of magnetic moments), as shown in figure 1.
The probable levels that may arise as a result of vector addition of the two angular momenta
from a d
1
electron configuration is shown in fig. 2
When l = 0 the electron is having no orbital
angular momentum and the total angular
momentum is same as that of the spin angular
momentum.
Total electronic angular momentum
When several electrons are present in an
atom there are, generally, two ways in which the
orbital and spin angular momenta add together
or oppose each other.
(i) Each spin may couple to its own orbital
angular momentum as in a one-electron case.
This type of coupling is called jj coupling.
(ii) All the individual orbital angular momenta
(
i
l

) couple to produce a total orbital angular
momentum ( L

). It is written as vector sums:
i
i
L l =
¯
 
. Here the summation is over the
electrons in the atom. Similarly, the individual
spin angular momenta (
i
s

) couple together to produce a total spin angular momentum ( S

).
i
i
S s =
¯

. Here also the summation is over the electrons in the atom.
Now, the orbital and spin angular momenta couple to produce the total angular momentum ( J

).
This type of coupling is called the Russell-Saunders or L-S coupling. This coupling scheme is
used when the spin-orbit coupling is weak, and generally used for atoms of low atomic number
(z ≤ 30).
(i) Total electronic orbital angular momentum
When several electrons are present in an atom the total orbital angular momentum is
obtained by the vector addition of individual orbital angular momenta.ie. in order to find out the
value of total orbital angular momentum we need an operator,
ˆ
L . It can be shown that
ˆ
L
commutes with the atomic Hamiltonian,
ˆ
H when spin-orbit coupling of individual electrons are
j = 3/2
j = 5/2
l = 2
s = 1/2
s = 1/2
l = 2
Fig. 2 The coupling of the spin and
orbital angular momenta of a d electron
(l =2) and s = ½ gives two possible
values of j depending on the relative
orientations of the spin and orbital
angular momenta of the electron.
3 Term Symbols Lecture notes

neglected. Therefore we can characterize an atomic state by a quantum number L, so that the
magnitude of the total orbital angular momentum is given as ( 1) L L+  .
The total orbital angular momentum (a non-negative integer) is obtained by coupling the
individual orbital angular momenta, empirically, using the Clebsch-Gordan series. If we have
two electrons with orbital angular momenta l
1
and l
2
, then the total angular momentum is given
as;
L = l
1
+ l
2
, l
1
+ l
2
– 1, ………
1 2
l l ÷
The maximum value of l
1
+ l
2
is obtained when the two orbital angular momenta are in the same
direction. The lowest value
1 2
l l ÷ , is obtained when they are in opposite directions. The
intermediate values represent possible intermediate relative orientations of the two momenta.
The total electronic orbital angular momentum quantum number L of an atom is specified by a
code letter as shown below:

L 0 1 2 3 4 5 6
letter S P D F G H I
The total orbital angular momentum is designated by a capital letter, while the individual
electronic orbital angular momentum is represented by lower case letter.
Example 1: Let us find out the possible values of the quantum number L, for the states of the
carbon atom that arise from the electron configuration of 1s
2
2s
2
2p
1
3d
1
. The s-electrons have zero
orbital angular momentum and contribute nothing to the total orbital angular momentum. Now
the p-electron has l = 1and designated as l
1
and the d-electron has l = 2 and is designated as l
2
.
From the Clebsch-Gordan series the total orbital angular momentum quantum number ranges
from,
L = l
1
+ l
2
………
1 2
l l ÷ = 3 …….. 1 2 ÷ = 3……..1. Therefore the possible values of L are 3, 2,
1. The electron configuration, 1s
2
2s
2
2p
1
3d
1
, thus gives rise to P, D and F states.
If more than two electrons are to be considered in a configuration then we use two series in
succession. First we couple two electrons and then we couple the third to each combined state
and so on. For eg. Let us consider the configuration 2p
1
3p
1
4p
1
. Three electrons l
1
= 1, l
2
= 1and
l
3
= 1. First we couple l
1
and l
2
and to each of the combined angular momentum we couple l
3
.
First coupling:
L’ = l
1
+ l
2
………
1 2
l l ÷
L’ = 1 + 1 ………1 – 1 = 2 ….. 0, hence
L’ = 2, 1, 0.
Now we couple l
3
with each value of L’
l
3
= 1, L’ = 2
L = 1 + 2, ……….., 1 – 2 = 3, ……. 1
L = 3, 2 ,1.
l
3
= 1, L’ = 1
4 Term Symbols Lecture notes

L = 1 + 1, …. 1 – 1 = 2,……., 0 = 2, 1, 0
l
3
= 1, L’ = 0
L = 1 + 0 ,……………….1- 0
L = 1
The total L terms are :3,2,1,2,1,0,1. The corresponding states are:
F, D, P, D, P, S, P

(ii) Total electronic spin angular momentum
When there are several electrons to be considered we must assess their total spin angular
momentum quantum number S (a non-negative integer or half-integer). Using the Clebsch-
Gordan series we can decide the values of S;
S = s
1
+ s
2
, s
1
+ s
2
– 1, .…..
1 2
s s ÷
For example let us consider two electrons, each of them with spin s = ½.
s
1
= ½, s
2
= ½
S = ½ + ½ , ……..
1 1
2 2
÷ =1, ……0 = 1,0
If there are three electrons the total spin angular momentum is obtained by coupling the third
spin with each value of S.
The spin multiplicity of a term is the value of 2S + 1. When S = 0 (as for a closed shell) the
electrons are all paired and there is no net spin. Hence the spin multiplicity is 2×0 + 1 = 1 and
the state is called a singlet state. If S = ½ , 2 × ½ + 1 = 2, a doublet state. When S =1 the state is
a triplet state, 2×1 + 1 = 3, and so on. A singlet S term is written as,
1
S (read as singlet S), a
doublet term as
2
(iii) Total electronic angular momentum
If there are several electrons outside a closed shell we have to consider the coupling of all
the spin angular momenta and all the orbital angular momenta separately. For atoms of low
atomic number the spin-orbit coupling is weak, and we are following the Russell-Saunders
coupling scheme. We imagine that all the orbital angular momenta of the electrons couple to give
the total orbital angular momentum L, and that all the spin angular momenta are similarly
coupled to give total S. Now we imagine that the two kinds of angular momenta couple through
the spin-orbit interaction to give a total angular momentum J. J is the total angular momentum
quantum number. The permitted values of J are given by the Clebsh-Gordan series.
J = L + S, L + S – 1, ……… J S ÷ . For example if L = 2 and S = 1, then
J = 2 + 1, ………… 2 1 ÷ = 3, …….., 1 = 3,2,1(each value differ by 1)
It is to be noticed that L, S and J are zero for completely filled sub-shells because, for
every electron with a negative value of l
i
, there is another electron with a corresponding positive
value to cancel it; the same case exists for spin angular momentum quantum number s
i
also. Thus
we can ignore the electrons in completely filled sub-shells in finding the terms.
5 Term Symbols Lecture notes

L is the total orbital angular momentum and its z component L
z
can have 2L+1 values
ranging from L to – L. These are represented by, M
L
= L, L – 1,…..,0,…. – L. Similarly M
S
can
take 2S+1 values and M
J
can take 2J +1 values.
M
S
= S, S – 1, ………– S. and M
J
= J, J – 1, … – J.
Now L =
(max) L
M and S =
(max) S
M
Atomic Term symbol
The atomic terms symbol is represented in the following way;

2 1 S
J
L
+

L is the total orbital angular momentum, (2S + 1) is the spin multiplicity and J is the total
electronic angular momentum quantum number.eg
3
P
2
; (read as triplet P two).
Two electrons in different sub-shells are called nonequivalent electrons. Nonequivalent
electrons have different values for n or l or both, and we need not worry about any restrictions
imposed by Pauli Exclusion Principle when we derive the terms. For example, the excited state
of helium 1s
1
2s
1
, or configurations like 2s
1
2p
1
, 3p
1
3d
1
etc.
Two electrons in the same sub-shell are called equivalent electrons. Equivalent electrons
have the same value of n and l. Example ground state carbon 1s
2
2s
2
2p
2
, or configurations like
2p
3
, 3d
2
etc. The situation is complicated by the necessity to avoid giving two electrons the same
four quantum numbers. Hence not all the terms derived for nonequivalent electrons are possible
in the case of equivalent electrons.
Term symbols for nonequivalent electrons
As an example let us consider the excited state electron configuration 1s
1
2s
1
, of the He
atom. Let us set up a table showing the possible M
L
and M
S
values, in the following manner.
M
L
0 0 0 0
M
S

1 0 0 −1
Col. 1 2 3 4

There are four microstates in the table because there are two possible spins, ±½, for the electron
in the 1s orbital and also for the electron in the 2s orbital. Since both the electrons are on
different orbitals the Pauli Exclusion Principle need not be considered. M
L
is equal to zero for all
the microstates in the table because the electrons are s-electrons, and they correspond to L = 0.
The largest value of M
S
is 1 and therefore, S =
(max) S
M = 1. All the values of M
S
= 1, 0, −1
correspond to L = 0 and S = 1. When L = 0 the term is S and the spin multiplicity is 2S+1 =
2×1+1 = 3. Therefore the term is
3
S. Thus the microstates of columns 1, 2 (or 3), and 4 give rise
to
3
S term. Now column 3 corresponds to M
L
=0 and M
S
= 0, and since there is only one entry,
L = 0 and S = 0. It represents a
1
S term. For the
3
S term L = 0 and S = 1. Hence,
−½

6 Term Symbols Lecture notes

J = L+S, …… L S ÷ = 1+0, … 1 – 0 = 1
The term symbol is
3
S1. For the
1
S term Both L and S are zero. Hence J =0 and the term
symbol is
1
S0.
A more convenient and easier way to derive term symbols for nonequivalent electrons is
to use the Clebsch-Gordan series. For the excited state electron configuration of He, 1s
1
2s
1
, l
1
= 0
and l
2
= 0, and s
1
= s
2
= ½. Therefore,
L = l
1
+ l
2
, …….
1 2
l l ÷ = 0
S = s
1
+ s
2
,

.…..
1 2
s s ÷ = ½ + ½ , ……..
1 1
2 2
÷ =1, ……0 = 1,0. Thus S has two values.
Taking L = 0 and S = 1, the term is
3
S. Now the value of J is,
J = L+S, …… L S ÷ = 1+0, … 1 – 0 = 1
Therefore the term symbol is
3
S1
Taking L = 0 and S = 0 the term is
1
S. Since L and S are zero J also is zero and the term
symbol is
1
S0. Thus the excited state of He can be represented by two states
3
S1 and
1
S0.
Example 2: Find the term symbol for the excited state of carbon atom represented by the
electron configuration 1s
2
2s
2
2p
1
3s
1
.
Since 1s and 2s are completely filled we need consider only 2p
1
3s
1
.
l
1
= 1, l
2
= 0 and s
1
= s
2
= ½
L = l
1
+ l
2
, …….
1 2
l l ÷ = 1 + 0 …… 1 – 0 = 1
S = s
1
+ s
2
,

.…..
1 2
s s ÷ = ½ + ½ , ……..
1 1
2 2
÷ =1, ……0 = 1,0.
Taking L =1 and S =1, the term is
3
P
J = L+S, …… L S ÷ = 1+1, …….1 – 1 =2, ….,0 = 2, 1, 0. The term symbols are:
3
P
2
,
3
P
1
, and
3
P
0
.
Taking L =1 and S = 0 the term is
1
P
J = L+S, …… L S ÷ = 1 + 0, …, 1- 0 = 1 (only one value since first and last are the same).
Therefore the term symbol is
1
P
1
. The different levels for this electron configuration are:
3
P
2
,
3
P
1
,
3
P
0
and
1
P
1
.
Example 3: Derive the term symbols for the electron configuration np
1
nd
1

For the p electron l = 1 and for the d electro l = 2
L = l
1
+ l
2
, …….
1 2
l l ÷ = 1 + 2, ………1 2 ÷ = 3, ……, 1= 3, 2, 1
S = s
1
+ s
2
,

.…..
1 2
s s ÷ = ½ + ½ , ……..
1 1
2 2
÷ =1, ……0 = 1,0.
For each value of L there can be two values of S, 1 and 0.
Taking L = 3 and S = 1the term is
3
F
J = L+S, …… L S ÷ = 3+1, ….., 3-1 = 4,…, 2 = 4, 3, 2. Hence the term symbols are:
3
F
4
,
3
F
3
,
3
F
2

Taking L = 3 and S = 0 we have
1
F term
7 Term Symbols Lecture notes

J = L+S, …… L S ÷ = 3+0, … 3- 0 = 3. The term symbol is
1
F
3

Taking L =2 and S =1we have
3
D term. The corresponding term symbols are
J = L+S, …… L S ÷ = 2+1, …2-1 = 3,..,1 = 3,2,1.

3
D
3
,
3
D
2,
3
D
1

Taking L = 1and S = 0 the term is
1
D and the corresponding term symbol is
1
D
1
For L = 1 and S =1 we have a
3
P term. The corresponding term symbols are,
3
P
2
,
3
P
1
,
3
P
0

When L = 1 and S = 0 we have a
1
P

term and the corresponding term symbol is
1
P
1

Thus the total terms for this electron configuration are:
3
F,
1
F,
3
D,
1
D,
3
P and
1
P.
Example 4: Write down the term symbol for the ground state configuration of F and Na.
a. Fluorine
The ground state configuration of fluorine is [He]2s
2
2p
5
or [Ne]2p
−1
. We treat this as a p
1

configuration. For a p electron l =1and since there is only one electron, L = 1. For a single
electron s = ½ and hence S = ½. Therefore 2S+1 = 2. J values are:
J = 1 + ½, …… 1 - ½ =
3
2
, …, ½ =
3
2
,½. Hence the term symbols are,
3 1
2 2
2 2
and P P
b. Sodium
The ground state electron configuration of Na is [Ne]3s
1
. For an s electron l = 0 and hence L = 0.
For a single electron s =½ and hence S = ½. Therefore, 2S+1 = 2. Since L =0 and S = ½, J = ½.
The term symbol is
2
S
½

Exercise 1
(a) Write down term symbols for the configurations (i) 3d
10
4s
2
(ii) 3d
1
4s
2
(iii) 1s
2
2s
1

(b) What values of J may occur in the following terms?
(i)
1
S (ii)
2
P (iii)
3
D (iv)
4
F
Configurations with equivalent electrons
Electrons in the same sub-shell are equivalent electrons. They have the same n and l
values. As an example we shall consider the ground state carbon atom. The electron
configuration is 1s
2
2s
2
2p
2
. Since we need not consider completely filled sub-shells we focus on
the electron configuration 2p
2
or in general np
2
. Since the two 2p electrons do not differ in their n
or l values, only the terms that are consistent with Pauli Exclusion Principle need be considered.
We are going to assign two electrons to two of the six possible spin-orbitals (2p
x
α, 2pxβ, 2p
y
α,
2pyβ, 2p
z
α, 2pzβ).The number of distinct ways (microstates) of assigning N electrons to G
spin-orbitals belonging to the same sub-shell (equivalent orbitals) is given by;
!
!( )!
G
N G N ÷
.
For the 2p
2
configuration N = 2 and G = 6. (For p orbitals G = 6, for d orbitals G = 10 etc.). The
number of distinct ways are:
6!
15
2!(6 2)!
=
÷
. We write down all these spin combinations in the
form of a table.
8 Term Symbols Lecture notes

Sl.
No
m
l

M
L

M
S

(½)
(-½)
L
(
(max) L
M )
S
(
(max) S
M
)
Term
+1 0 −1
1 0 0 0 0
1
S
2 2 0
2 0
1
D
3 1 0
4 0 0
5 −1 0
6 −2 0
7 1 1
1 1
3
P
8 1 0
9 1 −1
10 0 1
11 0 0
12 0 −1
13 −1 1
14 −1 0
15 −1 −1

Table 1
For the spin combination given in 1
st
row M
L
and M
S
are zero and hence M and S also are
zero. Therefore this arrangement corresponds to
1
S term. For the spin combinations given in
rows 2 to 6 the maximum value of M
L
is 2. Hence all these five combinations correspond to a D
term. Also, for all the five combinations S = 0, and hence represents
1
D term.
For the spin combinations given in rows 7 to 15 the maximum value of M
L
is 1.Hence it
corresponds to a P term. Now there are three values for M
S
and the maximum is 1. Therefore S =
1. Hence all these 9 combinations correspond to
3
P term.
Therefore, the corresponding term symbols are
1
S
0
,
1
D
2
,
3
P
0
,
3
P
1
and
3
P
2
.If we compare
this with an arrangement of two non-equivalent electrons, such as 2p
1
3p
1
where Pauli Exclusion
Principle need not be considered, the possible terms will be
3
D,
3
P,
3
S,
1
D,
1
P and
1
1
S,
1
D and
3
P.
The number of terms that arise from an np
4
configuration also will be the same as that of np
2

configuration. The following table gives the terms that would arise from different configurations.
(Any sub-shell that contains n electrons will give exactly the same term symbols as the same
sub-shell when it is n electrons short of being full). Table 2 shows the terms that may arise from
equivalent and non-equivalent electron configurations.

9 Term Symbols Lecture notes

Electron
Configuration
(Equivalent
electrons)
Terms
s
1

2
S
p
1
; p
5
2P
p
2
; p
4

1
S,
1
D,
3
P
p
3

2
P,
2
D,
4
S
d
1
; d
9

2
D
d
2
; d
8

1
S,
1
D,
1
G,
3
P,
3
F
d
3
; d
7

2
P,
2
D (two),
2
F,
2
G,
2
H,
4
P,
4
F
d
4
; d
6

1
S (two),
1
D (two),
1
F,
1
G (two),
2
I,
3
P (two),
3
D,
3
F
(two),
3
G,
3
H,
5
D.
d
5

2
S,
2
P,
2
D (three),
2
F (two),
2
G (two),
2
H,
2
I,
4
P,
4
D,
4
F,
4
G,
6
S
(non-equivalent electrons)

s
1
s
1

1
S,
3
S
s
1
p
1

1
P,
3
P
s
1
d
1

1
D,
3
D
p
1
p
1

3
D,
1
D,
3
P,
1
P,
3
S,
1
S
Table 2
Hund’s Rule
Even though we could calculate the energy associated with each state, we can predict which one
of the terms arising from a given electron configuration is lowest in energy using the empirical
Hund’s Rule:
1. The term with the largest value of S is most stable (has the lowest energy).
2. For terms with same value of S, the term with largest value of L is most stable.
3. If the terms have the same value of L and S, then, for a sub-shell that is less than half-filled,
the term with smallest value of J is most stable; for the sub-shell that is more than half-filled,
the term with largest value of J is most stable. For example the ground state term symbol for
oxygen is
3
P
2
and for carbon it is
3
P
0
. (No rule is needed to find the lowest level of the lowest
term of a half filled sub-shell configuration because for such sub-shells the term with largest S
value will be an S term. For an S term J will be zero. From Table 2, for the p
3
configuration
the lowest term is
4
S and for d
5
the lowest term is
6
S. For an f
7
it will be the
8
S term).
Hund’s rule work very well for the ground-state configuration, but occasionally fails for an
excited configuration. Hund’s rule gives only the lowest energy term of a configuration, and
should not be used to decide the order of the remaining terms.
10 Term Symbols Lecture notes

The classical explanation of Hund’s rule is that electrons with the same spin tend to keep
out of each other’s way, thereby minimizing the Coulombic repulsion between them. The term
that has the greatest number of parallel spins (highest value of S) will therefore be lowest in
energy. But this traditional explanation turns out to be wrong in most cases. For example
consider the
3
S (1s
1
2s
1
) term and the
1
S (1s
1
2s
1
) term of Helium. The
3
S term is found to be
lower in energy than the
1
S term. But calculations using accurate wave functions have shown that
the average distance between the two electrons is slightly less for
3
S term than
1
S term. Hence
the traditional explanation could not be applied here. The reason for the
3
S term lies below in
energy than the
1
S term is because of a substantially greater electron-nucleus attraction in
3
S term
as compared with
1
S term.
The following explanation is given for this: the ‘repulsion’ between electrons of like spins makes
the average angle between the radius vectors of two electrons large for the
3
S term than for the
1
S
term. This reduces the screening of the nucleus and allows the electrons to get closer to the
nucleus in the
3
S term, making electron nucleus attraction grater for
3
S term which results in
energy lowering compared to
1
S term.

Terms, Levels and States

The electrostatic interaction between electrons
give rise to different terms while the spin-orbit
(magnetic) interaction gives rise to different levels. The
interaction with external magnetic field gives rise to
different states. Different states are represented by M
J

values. A summary of the different types of interaction
that are responsible for the various kinds of splitting of
energy levels in atoms is shown in Fig 3. Only some
terms, levels and states are shown as an example. This
kind splitting is applicable in lighter atoms only. In
heavy atoms magnetic interaction may dominate
electrostatic (charge-charge) interaction.
For the ground state electron configuration of
carbon the term symbols are
3
P
0
,
3
P
1
,
3
P
2
,
1
D
2
and
1
S
0
.
Fig 4 shows the different terms, levels and states that
are possible for this arrangement. Each level is 2J+1
degenerate and the splitting of levels (M
J
values) occur
in the presence of an external magnetic field only.

Configuration
Electrostatic
interaction
S P D F
G
Spin correlation
1
S
3
S
1
P
Magnetic interaction
(spin-orbit)
1
S
0
3
P
0
3
P
1
Interaction with external
magnetic field
TERMS
LEVELS
STATES
(+J, ........, -J)
Fig 3:
11 Term Symbols Lecture notes

3
P
1
S
1
S
0
3
P
0
3
P
1
3
P
2
0
0
1
0
-1
2
1
0
-1
-2
Terms
Levels States M
J
1
D
0
Observed atomic energy levels in ground state carbon
10194 cm
-1
11454 cm
-1
(The separation of the levels for
3
P term is very small
and is exaggerated for clarity)
1
D
2
Fig 4

Example 5
Using Hund’s rule deduce the lowest energy level of an excited state of beryllium atom whose
electron configuration is 1s
2
2s
1
3s
1

The term symbols for the configuration are,
3
S
1
and
1
S
0
. From Hund’s first rule
3
S
1
is the lowest
energy level.
Example 6
Using Hund’d rule select the ground state term from the following
(a)
3
P,
1
P,
3
F,
1
G (b)
4
P,
4
G,
6
S,
2
I
Ans
(a)
3
F (b)
6
S
Example 7
Explain the fine structure of sodium D-line.
The atomic Hamiltonian does not include electron spin. But in reality the existence of
spin introduces an additional term (usually small), to the Hamiltonian. This term is called spin-
orbit interaction. This spin-orbit interaction splits the atomic terms into levels. When we include
the spin-orbit interaction, the energy of an atomic level depends on its total angular momentum J.
Thus each atomic term is split into levels, each level having a different value of J. For example
the 1s
2
2s
2
2p
6
3p
1
configuration of sodium has the single term
2
P, which is composed of the two
12 Term Symbols Lecture notes

levels
2
P
3/2
and
2
P
1/2 .
These two levels give rise to the observed fine structure of the sodium D-
line. The ground state configuration 1s
2
2s
2
2p
6
3s
1
has only one electron in the 3s orbital and
hence the term symbol is
2
S
1/2
. Fig 5 explains the fine structure of sodium D line.
2
P
3/2
2
P
1/2
1s
2
2s
2
2p
6
3p
1
1s
2
2s
2
2p
6
3s
1
589.6 nm 589.0 nm
2
S
1/2
Fig.5 fine structure of sodium D line

Example 8: Predict the lowest energy level for the d
5
electron configuration
The d
5
configuration is a half-filled configuration. ie., one electron in each orbital.
Therefore all the orbital angular momenta will get cancelled ( for a +2 electron there will be a –2
electron and so on) so total orbital angular momentum L will be zero. Hence an S term. The
lowest energy term has the maximum multiplicity and hence all the five electrons are considered
to be parallel with ∝-spin. Hence the total spin is 5/2. Therefore the term is
6
S. Since L = 0 and S
= 5/2, J has only one value, 5/2. The term symbol is
6
S
5/2

M
S
5/2
M
L
+2 +1 0 −1 −2 0

Atomic Spectroscopy – selection rules

For a hydrogen-like atom the electron transition between two energy levels is restricted
by the selection rules; ∆n = any integer, ∆l = ±1.That is an electron in the 1s orbital can undergo
transition to any p state, 1s → np, n ≥ 2. Similarly an electron in the p-state can go to any s-state
or d-state. For poly electronic atom the situation is more complicated, but the concept of term
symbols makes it simpler. It provides us the number of energy states of the atom as a whole. The
transitions between all these energy states are not allowed by the selection rule. For poly-electron
atoms the selection rules are:
∆n = ± any value
∆L = 0, ±1 (excluding L = 0 to L = 0)
∆S = 0
∆J = 0, ±1 (excluding J = 0 to J = 0)
Figure 6 shows the transitions responsible for the formation of the spectrum of hydrogen. Here
we consider the transitions between terms arising from configurations with n = 3, 2, and 1. The
ground level is 1s
1
(
2
S
1/2
). The configuration 3s
1
gives rise to another
2
S
1/2
with a single level. The
13 Term Symbols Lecture notes

configuration 3p
1
gives rise to
2
P
3/2
and
2
P
1/2
. Similarly with other excited states. Consider
transitions (1) and (2). For these transitions;
∆L = +1 (S to P)
∆S = 0 (
2
S to
2
P)
∆J = 0 for (1) and +1 for (2)
1s
1 2
S
1/2
( )
2s
1 2
S
1/2
( )
3s
1 2
S
1/2
( )
3p
1
(
2
P
3/2
)
3p
1(
2
P
1/2
)
2p
1
(
2
P
3/2
)
2p
1
(
2
P
1/2
)
3d
1
(
2
D
5/2
)
3d
1
(
2
D
3/2
)
Fig. 6 The energy levels of a hydrogen atom showing
possible transitions which is responsible for the
fine structure of the spectrum
(1)
(2)

The Zeeman Effect

In 1896, Zeeman observed that application of an external magnetic field caused a
splitting of atomic spectral lines. Electrons possess magnetic moments due to orbital and spin
angular momenta. In the presence of an external magnetic field the magnetic moment of the
electrons interact with the external field resulting shifts in energy level which causes the apparent
split in spectral lines.
14 Term Symbols Lecture notes

For a poly-electron atom the magnetic moment associated with the orbital motion of the
electrons is given by
2
L
e
e
L
m
u = ÷ and that due to spin motion is given by
2
S
e
e
S
m
u = ÷ ; where
e is the charge of the electron, m
e
is the mass of the electron considered as a point mass, L is the
total orbital angular momentum and S is the total spin. The magnetic moment due to total
angular momentum J is given by
2
e
e
eg
J gJ
m
u | = ÷ = ÷ ; where g is Landé g-factor and β
e
is the
Bohr magneton (which has a value of 9.274 ×10
-24
JT
-1
). The value of g is given by
( 1) ( 1) ( 1)
1
2 ( 1)
J J S S L L
g
J J
+ + + ÷ +
= +
+
. It depends on the state of the electron in the atom and in
general, g lies between 0 and 2.
When an external magnetic field is applied to the atom, say in the z direction, the
component of the magnetic moment along z-direction, μ
z
, will interact with the applied field. μ
z

is given by −β
e
gM
J
. Now the interaction energy E is given by
E = − μ
z
B = β
e
gM
J
B
where B is the strength of the applied magnetic field, M
J
is the components of the total angular
momentum in the z-direction. M
J
has (2J + 1) values ranging from + J to – J. Therefore the
interaction energy also will have (2J + 1) different values. These energy states are degenerate in
the absence of the external field.
Thus in the presence of an external magnetic field a particular energy level splits into
(2J +1) different energy states. The splitting of the M
J
energy levels in the presence of an
external magnetic field is called the Zeeman Effect. The splitting is proportional to the strength
of the applied field and is very small in magnitude. For
example in an applied field of one tesla (SI unit of magnetic
field strength, 1T = 10,000 gauss) the splitting is of the order
of 0.5 cm

1
.
Normal Zeeman Effect
For singlet states the total spin magnetic moment (S)
is zero. The magnetic moment of the electron system is then
due to the orbital motion alone. Hence there will not be any
coupling between spin and orbit motion and hence M
J
is equal
to M
L
and g become 1. The interaction energy is now, E =
β
e
M
L
B. This type of splitting of energy
levels due to applied field when S = 0 is called Normal
Zeeman Effect. As an example let us consider the spectral
lines that may arise due to the transition
1
P →
1
S, in the
presence of an external magnetic field. A
1
S term has neither
orbital nor spin angular momentum, so it is unaffected by the external magnetic field.

B = 0 B > 0
M
L
+1
0
-1
0
1
P
1
S
v
Normal Zeeman Effect
v
Fig. 6
15 Term Symbols Lecture notes

The
1
P level splits into three levels which give rise three lines in the spectrum. The selection rule
is ∆M
L
= 0, ±1. In the absence of magnetic field there will be only a single line. The normal
Zeeman Effect is observed wherever spin is not present (singlet to singlet transitions).

The anomalous Zeeman Effect
Anomalous Zeeman Effect is observed wherever
spin is not zero. It is more common than the normal
Zeeman Effect. In anomalous Zeeman Effect a more
complex pattern of lines is observed. For example consider
the transition
2
D
3/2

2
P
1/2
, in the presence of an external
magnetic field. When S≠0, the value of g depends on the
values of L and S and so different terms split to different
extents. The selection rule ∆M
J
= 0, ± continues to limit the
transitions. Anomalous Zeeman Effect provides an
experimental evidence for spin-orbit coupling.
When a strong field is applied, the coupling
between L and S may be broken and they tend to couple
directly with the applied magnetic field. As a result the
anomalous Zeeman Effect disappears and normal Zeeman
Effect is observed. This switch from the anomalous effect
to the normal effect is called Paschan-Back effect.

Molecular Term Symbols

We have seen that the electronic states of atoms are designated by term symbols.
Similarly, the electronic states of molecules are also designated by term symbols. As in poly-
electron atoms, we consider the coupling
between the motions of the electrons. For
diatomic molecules the most suitable
coupling scheme is that which is analogous
to the Russell-Saunders coupling employed
in atoms. The orbital angular momenta of
all the electrons in the molecule are
coupled to give a resultant L and all the
electron spin momenta are coupled to give
a resultant S. However, the coupling
between L and S is usually weak, and

 B
L
S
O
A
Nuclei
Electron
Figure 8
2
D
3/2
2
P
1/2
M
J
+3/2
+1/2
-1/2
-3/2
+1/2
-1/2
The anomalous Zeeeman Effect Fig: 7
16 Term Symbols Lecture notes

instead of being coupled to each other, they couple to the electrostatic field produced by the two
nuclear charges of the diatomic molecule. This situation is shown in Figure 7 and is referred to
as the Hund’s case.
The direction of the electrostatic field of the two nuclei is taken as the inter-nuclear axis
(taken as the z-axis). The vector L is strongly coupled to the electrostatic field so that it precess
about the inter-nuclear axis. As a result, the magnitude of L is not defined. Only the component
of L along the inter-nuclear axis is defined, which is
l L
m M = = A
¯
   . (m
l
is for individual

electrons and to calculate M
L
l
m ’s of individual electrons).
Here A is a quantum number taking values, 0, 1, 2, 3 …… All electronic states with A > 0 are
doubly degenerate. Classically, the degeneracy is ascribed to the electrons being orbiting,
clockwise or anticlockwise around the inter-nuclear axis represented by ±m
l
. The value of A is
similar to the value of L in the case of atoms. The electronic terms corresponding to different
values of A are E, H, A, u …..

A
0 1 2 3 …
Symbol
E H A u

The different types of molecular orbitals are σ, π, δ … We use the symbol λ to represent the
angular momentum of an electron in a molecule;
l
m = λ. Depending upon the type of MO
the value of λ varies as shown in Table 3.

MOs m
l

λ (
l
m )
AOs from which
MOs are formed
σ 0 0 s, p
z
,
2
z
d
π ±1 1 p
x
, p
y
, d
xz
, d
yz

δ ±2 2 d
xy
,
2 2
x y
d
÷

Table 3
The coupling of S to inter-nuclear axis is caused by magnetic field along the axis due to
the orbital motion of the electrons, and the electrostatic field has no effect on S. The component
of S along z-axis can be taken as  B and the quantum number B (beta) is analogues to M
s
in
atoms. B is the component of S along z-axis (the symbol is E, but to avoid confusion B is used).
B can have values, S, S – 1, ….. – S. It can be computed from the Clebsch-Gordan series. For
states A > 0, there are (2S + 1) components corresponding to the values that B can take. ie the
multiplicity of the level is (2S + 1).
The component of the total (orbital + electron spin) angular momentum along the inter-
nuclear axis is given by  O , where O (omega) is the absolute value of (A+B).
17 Term Symbols Lecture notes

O = 'A+B'. O is analogous to the quantum number J in atoms. It is actually the quantum number
for the z-component of the total electronic angular momentum and therefore can take on negative
values. It is the value of (A+B) and not the value of O is written as the subscript on the term
symbol. For eg., consider the
3
H term. Since the term is H, A= 1. Now (2S + 1) = 3 or S = 1.
Hence the values of B are S, S – 1, …. ÷ S = 1, 0, ÷ 1.
A+B = A+S, A+ (S÷1), …..A+ (÷S) = 1+1, 1+1÷1, 1÷1 = 2, 1, 0. Therefore the term symbols
are,
3
H
2
,
3
H
1
,
3
H
0
.
A
4
H term has four levels,
2
1
4
2
1
4
2
3
4
2
5
4
, , ,
÷
H H H H . This arises in the following way:
Spin multiplicity (2S + 1) = 4, therefore S =
3
2
. Hence the values of B are:
3 3 1 1
2 2 2 2
, , , ÷ ÷ .
A+B = A+S, A+ (S÷1), …..A+ (÷S) =
3 3 5 3 1 1 1 1
2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
1 ,1 ,1 ( ),1 ( ) , , , + + + ÷ + ÷ = ÷
For a E state, there is no orbital angular momentum (A = 0). Hence, a E state has only one
component irrespective of the multiplicity. The quantum numbers B and O are not defined forE
state. A filled molecular orbital has
both A and B equal to zero and
gives rise to only a
1
E term. It
always corresponds to a single non-
degenerate energy level. Example
is the ground state electronic
configuration of hydrogen
molecule.
For atoms, the electronic
energy states may be classified entirely by the use of L, S, and J. In diatomic molecules, the
corresponding quantum numbers A, B, and O are not quite sufficient. We must also use the
symmetry properties of the electronic wave function. For homopolar diatomic molecules, the
states are labeled as g or u, which indicates the wavefunction is symmetric or anti-symmetric
respectively to inversion through a centre
of symmetry. The other symmetry
property concerns the symmetry of
electron wave function with respect to
reflection across any plane (o
V
)
containing the inert-nuclear axis. If the
wave function is unchanged by this
reflection (ie. symmetric), the state is
labeled +, and if it changes in sign by this reflection (ie. Anti-symmetric), the state is labeled – ,
as in
3
E
g
+
or
2
E
÷
g
. This symbolism is normally used for E states only. Similar to atomic term
symbol molecular term symbols also are also represented by writing spin multiplicity as left
superscript and total angular momentum O as right subscript to the code letter for A.ie.
t
u
t
g
o
g

o
u
Parity - behaviour under inversion.
Figure 9
o
v
(-) (+)
anti-symmetric
with respect to
plane
symmetric with
respect to
plane
o
v
Figure 10
18 Term Symbols Lecture notes

2 1 /
( / )
S
g u
+ + ÷
O
A

Generally the total angular momentum O is not shown, and the parity sign (+/−) is shown for E
terms only. g/u subscript is used only for homonuclear diatomic molecules.
For simple homonuclear diatomic molecules the following guidelines can be used for assigning
parity. (a detailed way of assigning +/− is discussed in the case of O
2
molecule)
- If all MOs are filled, + applies
- If all partially filled MOs have σ symmetry, + applies
- For partially filled MOs of π symmetry (for example B
2
and O
2
), if Σ terms arise,
the triplet state is associated with −, and the singlet state is associated with +.
For diatomic molecules of closed-shell configuration all the electrons are paired. Hence
the quantum number M
S
, which is the algebraic sum of individual m
s
values, must be zero.
Therefore S = 0 for configurations containing only filled molecular shells. A filled σ shell has
two electrons with m
l
= 0, so M
L
is zero. A filled π-shell has two electrons with m
l
= +1 and two
electrons with m
l
= −1, so M
L
is zero. The same situation hold for filled δ, ϕ, … shells. Thus a
closed-shell molecular configuration has both S and Λ equal to zero and give rise to only a
1
Σ term.
For example consider the ground state configuration 1σ
g
2
, of H
2
molecule. The term is
1
Σ. Since
the electrons are in a gerade orbital, and the σ-orbital being symmetric the term symbol is
1
g
+
E .
Electrons in the same molecular shell are called equivalent. For equivalent electrons, there are
fewer terms than for the corresponding non-equivalent electron configuration, because of the
Pauli Principle. Table 4 gives a list of terms for equivalent and non-equivalent electron
configurations of diatomic molecules.
Configuration Terms
Non-equivalent
δ
1
σ
1

1
Σ
+
,
3
Σ
+

σ
1
π
1
; σ
1
π
3

1
Π,
3
Π
π
1
π
1
; π
1
π
3

1
Σ
+
,
3
Σ
+
,
1
Σ

,
3
Σ

,
1
∆,
3

π
1
δ
1
, π
3
δ
1
, π
1
δ
3

1
Π,
3
Π,
1
Φ,
3
Φ
Equivalent
σ
1

2
Σ
+

σ
2
; π
4
; δ
4

1
Σ
+

π
1
; π
3

2
Π
π
2

1
Σ
+
,
3
Σ

,
1

δ
1
; δ
3

2

Δ
2

1
Σ
+
,
3
Σ

,
1
Γ
Table 4

19 Term Symbols Lecture notes

Examples
(i) H
2
+
The electron configuration is 1σ
g
1
. Since there is only one electron, S = s = ½ . Spin multiplicity
is 2. For σ electron λ = 0 and hence, Λ = 0. The term symbol is
2
Σ
g
+
.
(ii) B
2
+

The electron configuration is, 1σ
g
2

u
2

g
2

u
2

u
1
. Only one electron need to be considered.
For that electron λ = Λ = 1 (π-electron) and S = s = ½ . Hence the term is Π. The spin
multiplicity is 2. Therefore the term symbol is
2
Π (or
2
Πu).
(iii)N2
+

The electron configuration is 2σ
g
2

u
2

u
4

g
1
. All orbitals except 3σ
g
are filled. Only one
electron is present in the 3σ
g
orbital. Hence, Λ = 0 and S = s = ½. Therefore the term symbol is
2
Σ
g
+
.
(iv) O
2
(or B
2
)
The electron configuration for O
2
is 2σ
g
2

u
2

g
2

u
4

g
2
. All orbitals up to 1π
g
are filled. There
are two electrons in the π
g
orbital. For π-electrons λ = 1 (and m
l
= ±1). The two electrons in
the1π
g
orbital can be arranged in the following way (Table 5). π+ and π− are the two different
angular momenta of the electron. Ψ1, Ψ2, … are the spin-orbit wave functions

Ψ1 Ψ2 Ψ3 Ψ4 Ψ5 Ψ6
π+ ⇵ ↓ ↑ ↑ ↓
π− ⇵ ↑ ↑ ↓ ↓
ML +2 −2 0 0 0 0
MS 0 0 0 +1 0 −1
term
1

1
g
+
E

3
g
÷
E

Table 5
In the table, M
L
values +2 and −2 represent a term with Λ = 2. MS values for both the values
are zero and hence S = 0. Therefore this arrangement represents a
1
Δ term. When ML and
MS are zero it represents a
1
Σg term. For the remaining three arrangements ML = 0, but the
values MS are +1, 0, −1, and it corresponds to S = 1. ie. Λ = 0 and S = 1. Hence a
3
Σg term.
Now we have to assign +/− to Σ terms.
The O
2
molecule has a π
2
configuration, and anti-symmetric wave functions can be
formed either by combining symmetric spatial functions with anti-symmetric spin functions or
vice versa. All the six combinations are shown below in table 6. The spatial part of Ψ1 and Ψ2
are symmetric and this being a ∆ term we do not assign +/− to it. For Ψ3 the spatial
function is symmetric and hence we assign + sign. Ψ4 to Ψ6 are anti-symmetric so it
combine with symmetric spin function. We assign ‘–‘ for these three terms.

20 Term Symbols Lecture notes

Spatial (orbital)
function
Spin function
Symmetry of
spin function
Symmetry of orbital
function
Ψ1 π+ π+ α(1)β(2) - β(1) α(2) Anti-symmetric symmetric
1
Δ
Ψ2 π− π− α(1)β(2) - β(1) α(2) Anti-symmetric symmetric
Ψ3 (π+ π− )+ (π− π+) α(1)β(2) - β(1) α(2) Anti-symmetric symmetric
1
Σ
+

Ψ4 (π+ π− ) − (π− π+) α(1) α (2) symmetric
Anti-
symmetric
3
Σ

Ψ5 (π+ π− ) − (π− π+) α(1)β(2) + β(1) α(2) symmetric
Anti-
symmetric
Ψ6 (π+ π− ) − (π− π+) β(1)β(2) symmetric
Anti-
symmetric

Table 6

Thus the term symbols for the ground state of O
2
are:
1
Δ,
1
g
+
E and
3
g
÷
E .

Exercise:
Write the term symbol for (i) Li
2
+
with the electron configuration 2σ
g
2
, (ii) F
2
and (iii) H
2

Electronic spectra of diatomic molecules.

Let us take the simplest molecule H
2
as example. For H
2
molecule the configuration is 1σ
g
2
,
hence the term symbol is
1
Σ
g
+
. We can also imagine a large number of singlet excited states and
let us consider some lower energy levels in which only one electron has been raised from the
ground state into some higher molecular orbitals (ie. singly excited states). We can ignore any
promotion into any anti-bonding states since this would lead to the formation of an unstable
molecule leading to immediate dissociation of the molecule. Thus we may consider, for example,
three states; 1sσ
g
1
2sσ
g
1
, 1sσ
g
1
2pσ
g
1
, 1sσ
g
1
2pπ
u
1

(a) 1sσ
g
1
2sσ
g
1

Here both the electrons are σ electrons. Hence Λ = λ1 + λ2 = 0. We are considering only
singlet states, so S = 0. Since both the constituent orbitals are gerade and symmetrical, the
over all state will be the same. Therefore we have
1
g
+
E state.
(b) 1sσ
g
1
2pσ
g
1
Since both the electrons are σ- electrons we have a
1
Σ state. But the
overall state is now odd. This can be understood in the following
way. Imagine that one of the electrons is coming from a
hydrogen atom in the gerade 1s state, and the other electron
from a hydrogen atom in the ungerade 2p state. Combination of
g
u
21 Term Symbols Lecture notes

1
Σu
+
.
(c) 1sσ
g
1
2pπ
u
1

Since one electron is σ and the other is π, Λ = λ1 + λ2 = 0 + 1 = 1. Therefore we have a
1
Π
term. As in the above case, since one electron comes from a 2p orbital we can consider the
overall state as u. Hence
1
Πu

Thus the three excited state configurations give rise to
1
g
+
E
,
1
u
+
E
1
and
u
H
.

Selection Rules

The transition between different electronic state can occur according to the following selection
rules:
1. ΔΛ = 0, ±1
For eg. Σ ↔Σ, Π ↔Π, Π↔Σ are allowed while Δ ↮ Σ or Φ ↮ Π are not allowed.
2. ΔS = 0
That is only transitions like singlet – singlet, triplet – triplet are allowed. But this
rule breaks down with increase of nuclear charge. For example triplet – singlet
transitions are strictly forbidden in H
2
but in CO,
3
Π -
1
Σ
+
transition is observed
although very weekly.
3. ΔΩ = 0, ±1
4. There are also rules based on symmetry: ↔ indicates allowed transition, and ↮
indicates forbidden transition
+ ↔ + and − ↔ − are allowed
+ ↮ − is forbidden
g ↔ u allowed
g ↮ g and u ↮ u are forbidden

Figure 11 shows the molecular orbital energy level diagram for H
2
molecule. For hydrogen 2s
and 2p are having same energy.

Heteronuclear diatomic molecules

For heteronuclear diatomics the gerade ungerade designation is not used. For example let us find
the term for the NO molecule.
The electron configuration for NO is 3o
2
, 4o
2
, 5o
2
1t
4
, 2t
1
. Only one electron in the t-orbital,
so A = 1 and S = ½. Hence the term is
2
H. Now S has only two values +½ and ÷½. Hence O = A
+ S = 1 + ½, 1÷ ½. Therefore the term symbols are;
2
H
3/2
and
2
H
1/2

Exercise: Find the term symbols for the ground state of CO

22 Term Symbols Lecture notes

1s 1s
2s, 2p 2s, 2p
2so
g
1so
g
2so
u
1so
u
2po
g
u
t 2p
u
t 2p
g
2po
Fig: 11
1so
g
2so
3so
4so
2po
t
2p
t 3p
t 4p
t
3p
t
3p
(ground state)
(a) MO energy level diagram for hydrogen
molecule
(b) singlet-singlet one-electron transitions in
hydrogen molecule
Energy
1
H
E
1
g
+
E
1
+
u
u
E
1
g
+

23 Term Symbols Lecture notes

References

1. Molecular quantum mechanics, 4
th
edn., Atkins and Friedman
2. Quantum Chemistry, 5
th
edn Ira N. Levine
3. Physical chemistry a molecular approach, Donald A. McQuarrie and John D. Simon
4. Atkins’ Physical chemistry, Peter Atkins and Julio de Paula
5. Electronic Absorption Spectroscopy and related techniques, D. N. Sathyanarayana