Core charge

Core charge is the effective nuclear charge experienced by an outer shell electron. In other words, core charge is an expression of the attractive force experienced by the valence electrons to the core of an atom which takes into account the shielding effect of core electrons. Core charge can be calculated by taking the number of protons in the nucleus minus the number of core electrons, also called inner shell electrons, and is always a positive value.

Core charge is a convenient way of explaining trends in the periodic table.[1] Since the core charge increases as you move across a row of the periodic table, the outer-shell electrons are pulled more and more strongly towards the nucleus and the atomic radius decreases. This can be used to explain a number of periodic trends such as atomic radius, first ionization energy (IE), electronegativity, and oxidizing.

Core charge can also be calculated as 'atomic number' minus 'all electrons except those in the outer shell'. For example, chlorine (element 17), with electron configuration 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p5, has 17 protons and 10 inner shell electrons (2 in the first shell, and 8 in the second) so:

Core charge = 17 − 10 = +7

A core charge is the net charge of a nucleus, considering the completed shells of electrons to act as a 'shield.' As a core charge increases, the valence electrons are more strongly attracted to the nucleus, and the atomic radius decreases across the period.


  1. Spencer, James (2012). Chemistry : structure and dynamics. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley. ISBN 978-0-470-58711-9.
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