Willis E. Lamb, Jr., and Marlan O. Scully, "The photoelectric effect without photons"

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Willis E. Lamb, Jr., and Marlan O. Scully, "The photoelectric effect without photons"

Attribution Non-Commercial (BY-NC)

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Department of Physics, Yale Universq and currently Center for Theoretical Studies, University of Miami and

Marlan 0. Scully

Department of Physics and Materials Science Center Massachusetts Institute of Technology

GPO PRICE

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653 July 65

February 1968

University of Miami/Coral Gables, Florida 33124

Willis E. Lamb, J r . - x Department of Physics, Yale University and currently Center f o r Theoretical Studies, University of Miami and Marlan 0. Scully**Department of Physics and Materials Science Center Massachusetts Institute of Technology

and Space Administration and in part by the U. S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

**

formative years is that the photoelectric effect requires the quantization of the electromagnetic field for its explanation. The following quotation taken from a widely used physics illustrates the point.

text book'

"Einstein's photoelectric equation played an enormous part in the development of the modern quantum theory. But in spite of its generality and of the

many successful applications that have been made of it in physical theories, the equation

is, as we shall see presently,based on a concept of radiation - the concept of 'light quanta! completely at variance with the most fundamental concepts of the classical electromagnetic theory of radiation"

In fact we shall see that the photoelectric effect may be completely explained without invoking the concept of "light quanta".

the electromagnetic field for their explanation, for example:

1 . Planck distribution law for black body radiation

(1900)9

2.

The photoelectric effect is definitely not included in the foregoing list. It is an historical accident that the

photon concept should have acquired its strongest early support from Einstein's considerations on the photoelectric effect. The physicists of the early years of this century deserve great credit for realizing that

11

The very existence of atoms, (Bohr, 1913), requires the finiteness of Planck's constant to be taken into account for the behavior of the atomic electrons. However, once granted the existence of atoms, we shall see that all of the experimental photoelectric phenomena are described by a theory in which the electromagnetic field is treated classically while only the matter is treated quantum mechanically. These phenomena

include (a) the Einstein photoelectric relation (l), (b) the linear relationship between photocurrent and light intensity and (c) observations at low radiation levels where photoelectrons are obtained after times of illumination insufficient for "accumulation" in an atom of enough energy to liberate an electron, i.e.,

>

Go

emission, in which both the detector (atomic electrons) and the electromagnetic field (photons) are quantized, is published elsewhere.2

Our model for a photodetector consists of a collection of completely independent atoms. Each atom has one electron3

and is bathed in a classical electromagnetic field, for which the electric field is

E(t)

E 0 COS vt

I, ) g

are normalized in a length L very large compared to atomic dimensions, so that the k levels will approximate a continium when L is eventually allowed to become infinite. Photoelectron emission involves a transition from l g ) to any of the (k) states. The Hamiltonian4 for the electron as it interacts with the field is

H0 - eE(t)x,

(3)

where H

0

atomic coordinate operator and e is the negative electronic charge. It is convenient to go into the interaction picture

V(t)

- eE(t)x(t),

(4)

where

4

x(t)

=

exp iHot/h x ex

c , ' . i 3.

-iHot/h

(5)

where

k is the energy of the kth excited state measured relative to the ground state. We ignore transitions between

1 .

excited states, i.e., we are interested in knowing if the atom is ionized, not in what happens to the electron once it is in the quasi-continuum. The photoelectron density matrix obeys the equation of motion

It is convenient to substitute Eq. (8) into (7) to obtain the alternative form for the time rate of change of the electronic density matrix

5

as i n r e f e r e n c e (2).

Let us now proceed t o d e r i v e t h e r e l a t i o n

hand s i d e of Eq.

p(t)

p(0)

i s obtained by p l a c i n g

i n the r i g h t

p

we f i n d

g, g

( 0 ) = 1,

pk,k(t)

sin2

6

It is clear that an electron will be raised to the kth excited state with appreciable probability only if

\

k = hv,

=

spectrum.

> 0 of

ck = @ + E ,

hV =

@

E.

(17)

>

@,

the energy dependence of the ejected photoelectrons obeys the Einstein relationship even for a classical radiation field illuminating quantized atoms. needed. The total probability P(t) for finding a photoelectron is given by The concept of a photon is not

P(t)

k k,k(t)

2..

-+

dco(c).

. ..,

P(t)

Y t,

This formula implies a "rate" of transitions y for each atom of a collection of independent atoms. This derivation It

should be noted that (22) is proportional to the light intensity. Equation (21) certainly does not imply the "time delay" which some people used to expect for the photoelectrons produced by a classical e.m. field. The perturbation begins to mix

as it is turned on.

refers to a probability f o r an ensemble in a typically quantum mechanical manner, and statistical fluctuations would be inevitable, but as shown elsewhere2, are fully and satisfactorily describable by the theory.

a result like (21), correct to lowest order perturbation theory. Because of the simplicity of the model for our

photodetector, it is possible to carry out the calculation to all orders in the perturbation, and hence to have an example where rate equations are rigorously justified. We begin by noting that, from Eq. ( 8 ) , P(t) obeys the relations

d P ( t ) = dt d Ckp

dt

k,k (t)

(t') and all p (t') are positive and k,k g,g their sum is unity, it is clear that the p (t') have Since

p

k,k

an upper bound as functions of k. This may be estimated in the following fashion. It was seen from Eq. (15)

(given by an uncertainty principle) are appreciably excited. The number N of these s t a t e s is about

At this stage in the calculation we might not be sure that the k dependence of

p

k,k

result (13), but the exact distribution6 certainly cannot be appreciably sharper than given by (15). We may then

+m,

we have N

+w

1 0

Then as L

-fa

(24) involving ~ ~ , ~ ( t 'can ) be neglected (t') so Eq. (24) compared to those involving p

g,g

becomes

f C.C.

(29)

Replacing the sum over k by an integral over excited state energies c, and using (28), we obtain

dt e d ! =

~ ( c )

lo

dttlex

,g Eo /2h12

The integral over c leads to a delta function 2nh6(t-t') multiplied by some slowly varying factors evaluated at resonance c

=

dP0 dt = y [ l P ( t ) ]

where the rate constant y has the value (22) indicated by the perturbative theory. equation P(t)

=

1 1

the result of a classical field falling on a quantized atomic electron. The introduction of the photon concept is

neither logically implied by nor necessary for the explanation of the photoelectric effect.

12

FOOTNOTES

1.

Introduction to Modern Physics, 5th ed. (McGraw Hill, New York 1955) p. 94.

2.

be published, 1968.)

3.

For simplicity we consider the problem to be one dimensional with electric field and motion of the electron confined to the x axis.

4.

Only the electric dipole part of the perturbation is taken, i.e., retardation and magnetic effects are neglected. This approximation is made only to simplify the equations.

5. L. I. Schiff, Quantum Mechanics (McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York, 1955), p. 220, problem

6. This supposition can eventually be confirmed by

examining equation (30).

2 .

FIGURE CAPTION

Classical field falling on atom having ground state \g> and continuum of excited states \k>,lowest excited state energy is @.

bx

J

N

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