Molecular Orbital Theory

Molecular Orbital Theory

In chemistry, molecular orbital (MO) theory is a method for determining molecular structure in which electrons are not assigned to individual bonds between atoms, but are treated as moving under the influence of the nuclei in the whole molecule. In this theory, each molecule has a set of molecular orbitals, in which it is assumed that the molecular orbital wave function ψj may be written as a simple weighted sum of the n constituent atomic orbitals χi, according to the following equation:

The cij coefficients may be determined numerically by substitution of this equation into the Schrödinger equation and application of the variational principle. This method is called the linear combination of atomic orbitals (LCAO) approximation and is used in computational chemistry. An additional unitary transformation can be applied on the system to accelerate the convergence in some computational schemes. Molecular orbital theory was seen as a competitor to valence bond theory in the 1930s, before it was realized that the two methods are closely related and that when extended they become equivalent.

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