Odyssey Atomic Orbitals – Chemistry App Review

The kind folks at Wavefunction Inc. have supplied me with their full Odyssey general chemistry app suite and I will be reviewing each of these apps throughout the remainder of 2014.


This is the fourth of these reviews, and I will be discussing the Atomic Orbitals app which is available for purchase in the app store for $3.99 CAD (https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/odyssey-atomic-orbitals/id830980902?mt=8)



At VIU in our CHEM 140 class, and most other General Chemistry courses elsewhere, atomic orbitals are examined and explained in terms of the quantum theory. The topic of atomic orbitals and hybridization can be very visual, and yet also abstract with a lot of theory. An app that can help student understanding in this tricky topic would be a great benefit in the CHEM 140 course.

The App:

The interface is very similar to the other Odyssey apps previously reviewed. There is a portion where the orbitals are featured for manipulation and a portion which lists examples and has tabs for a glossary, some additional comments, and questions.  As well, some guidelines towards how students should approach using the app are given in the OBSERVE! tab.

photo 1

The shapes of the orbitals can be clearly observed by clicking on each of the orbitals. Pinch-to-zoom and swiping to rotate gives a full three-dimensional perspective on the orbitals.

Under the Shell Structure of the Atom, the shell number can be chosen, showing the impact of the principal quantum number on the size of the atoms (compare the picture below at n=5, to that above at n=3).

photo 2


By selecting any of the 22 main group Chemical Elements provided, a list detailing the number of electrons, number of occupied orbitals, electron pairs/unpaired electrons, electron configuration (with shorthand) and magnetism appears, as well as buttons for each orbital of the atom.

photo 2 (2)

The glossary has a list of helpful definitions, and multiple choice questions are available under the question section.

photo 3 (2)

Final Impressions:

I think this is a really helpful app to get across the 3-D nature of the atomic orbitals beyond the scope of the 2-D textbook, and emphasize certain aspects of the quantum theory behind orbitals. For instance, I plan to use this app to show the effect changing the principal quantum number has on the orbital size during my lecture this fall. My main critique is that hybridized orbitals are not included, which are often a trickier subject for students. Hybrid orbitals are also taught in this type of General Chemistry course following atomic orbitals.

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