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Determination of h/e from the Photoelectric Effect

Brian Lim and P. McEuen


Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14!", U#$
%received & 'ecem(er )**!+
By measurin, the current ,enerated in a -hotomulti-lier tu(e %PM.+, due to e/-osure
0rom various 0re1uencies the mercury arc, the -hotoelectric e00ect 2as o(served. By
varyin, the a--lied volta,e and studyin, the su(se1uent I34 curves o0 the PM., the
sto--in, volta,es o0 the ,enerated -hotoelectrons are estimated, usin, linear
a--ro/imations. Com-arin, the sto--in, volta,es a,ainst 0re1uency, h5e 6
".4*."1*
1!
4s is determined 2ithin 17 0rom the acce-ted value o0
4.1"81*
1!
4s . $lternative methods to estimate sto--in, volta,es are also (rie0ly
investi,ated and evaluated.
1. Introduction
9ne o0 the ma:or (rea; throu,hs (y Einstein in his -ivotal 1&*! -a-ers, the -hotoelectric
e00ect
1
hel-ed to solidi0y the notion o0 li,ht as 1uanta. 'ra2in, 0rom Planc;<s 1uantum hy-othesis 0or
(lac;(ody radiation, that li,ht has ener,y 1uanta E=hf , Einstein e/tended it to e/-lain ho2 the
interaction o0 li,ht 2ith electrons o0 a metal ,ive rise to -hotoelectrons. =is -hotoelectric theory
e/-lains 2hy and ho2 the velocity o0 the electrons, and thus the measured volta,e, varies 2ith
0re1uency and not li,ht intensity. .he latter a00ects the current o0 the electrons in this 1uantum theory,
2hich is much contrary to the 2ave nature o0 li,ht much acce-ted since Youn,<s dou(le slit
e/-eriment. >irst demonstrated success0ully (y Mili;an
)
, the -hotoelectric e/-eriment has (ecome a
sta-le in advanced under,raduate -hysics la(s, usin, more advanced e1ui-ment, 2ith the -rimary ,oal
1
o0 determinin, the ratio o0 Planc;<s constant, h, a,ainst the electron char,e, e, i.e. h5e, 2hile revealin,
the intricacies involved in o(tainin, the results.
2. Description of Apparatus
.he e/-erimental set3u- %>i,ure ).1+ com-rises %a+ a mercury lam- %2ith a ?eneral Electric
=1**3$45. 1**@ mercury (ul(+, to emit -hotons o0 s-eci0ic 0re1uencies, %b+ a =amamatsu
-hotomulti-lier tu(e 1P) to ,enerate -hotoelectrons, and %c+ a disc, -laced in 0ront o0 the PM. 2ith !
0iltersA yello2, ,reen, (lue, violet, and ultraviolet. @ith these 0ilters in 0ront o0 the mercury source, the
res-ective 2avelen,ths, !B*$, !481$, 4"!$, 4*4B$, "88"$, are o(tained. Current is measured 2ith
the Ceithley 4* Picoammeter, and volta,e 2ith the >lu;e BB Multimeter. $ (lac; cloth is dra-ed over
the a--aratus to reduce (ac;,round li,ht e/-osure.
@hen conductin, the e/-eriment, it is (est to have all the ma/imum 0or2ard currents e1ual
to ,ive the same normaliDation 0actor. $ssumin, that the ma,nitude o0 the current is directly
-ro-ortional to the li,ht intensity, the -osition o0 the mercury lam-, 2ith res-ect to the PM., is
)
Figure 2.1: Apparatus set-up. The mercury source intensity can be adjusted by moving the lamp
nearerfarther from the detector! or changing the angle of light incidence.
E F
$ 4
%a+
%b+
%c+
ad:usted to -rovide e1ual intensity. .his is to com-ensate 0or the nonlinearity o0 the intensity o0 each
0re1uency o0 the mercury s-ectrum %>i,ure ).)+, and the nonlinear s-ectral res-onse o0 the PM.
"
.
Un0ortunately, this ad:ustment 2as done crudely (y merely shi0tin, the retort stand that su--orts the
lam- until the current readin, 0rom the PM. is e1ual 0or the ma/imum 0or2ard currents.
>urthermore, this cali(ration has to (e re-eated durin, the course o0 the e/-eriment, due to
a -ersistent dri0t o0 the ma/imum 0or2ard current. >or the yello2 and violet 0e1uencies, 2ith the
2ea;est detection rates, the most -ro0ound dri0tin, is o(served, as the lam- is situated closest to 0ilters
and detector, causin, their si,ni0icant heatin,. .he dri0tin, is reduced a little 2hen the lam- is (rou,ht
0arther a2ay 0rom the detector, (ut this com-romises the re1uirement o0 maintainin, a constant
normaliDation 0actor o0 ma/imum 0or2ard current 0or all 0re1uencies. .here0ore, only the yello2
0re1uency has a lo2 current intensity, 2hile the other 0re1uencies are e1ually hi,h. =o2ever, even 2ith
these measures, the dri0t is noticea(le and causes the most si,ni0icant o0 errors 0or this e/-eriment.
3. Theory
.he -hotoelectric e00ect involves the a(sor-tion o0 ener,y 0rom a -hoton, E=h f , (y an
electron, such that the latter has su00icient ener,y to esca-e the metal sur0ace o0 the cathode. 'e-endin,
on the ori,inal ener,y o0 the electron in the metal, -art o0 the -hoton ener,y ,oes into the 2or;
"
Figure 2.2: An e"ample of the nonlinear intensity distribution of the mercury spectrum.
#rc: http:oc$.mit.edu%&rdonlyres'hysics(-1)-1*Fall-2++*-#pring-2++,A+*-(./2-21)0-
*FA*-(E/.-(,+0,A10.2.1+jle"p++2.pdf
0unction , 2hile the remainder contri(utes to its ;inetic ener,y. .hus derives the 0amous e1uation (y
EinsteinA
e2 =
1
)
m
e
v
)
=h f
, %".1+
2here the ener,y o0 the electron can also (e re-resented as e2, the electron char,e multi-lied (y its
volta,e. >i,ure ".1 illustrates the ,eneration o0 -hotoelectrons 0rom illumination.
90 the electrons that esca-e, there is a ma/imum velocity 2hich can (e determined in terms
o0 volta,e. By a--lyin, a -otential di00erence across the cathode and anode, o--osin, the electron -ath,
the 0lo2 o0 -hotoelectrons can (e made to sto-. .he sto--in, volta,e, at 2hich this :ust ha--ens, can
(e used to calculate the ratio h5e, (y the e1uation
2
s
=
h
e
f

m
e
. %".)+
.he distri(ution o0 ener,y o0 the electrons in the metal sur0ace can (e e/-lained usin,
1uantum mechanics and >ermi statistics
4
. Bein, >ermi -articles, electrons 0ollo2 the >ermi3'irac
distri(ution
!
n3 =
1
e
4 3 / 3
1
T
1
2hich descri(es the avera,e num(er o0 electrons distri(uted (y their 2avenum(er, 3, 2here 4%3+ is the
4
Figure ).1: .ircuit schematic of apparatus
4
$
cathode
anode
electron ener,y, 5 is the chemical -otential at that state, 3
1
is the BoltDmann constant, and T is the
tem-erature. In terms o0 ener,y, the density o0 states in "' 0or a 0ree -article is / 4~4
8
, ,ivin, the
distri(ution o0 ener,y as
n4~

*
4
4
e
4 / 3
1
T
1
d4 .
%"."+
.he inte,rand in E1uation "." is -lotted in >i,ure ".). #ince 4 G 2 and f G 6, the I34 curve should
0ollo2 E1uation ".", and its derivative d6 / d2 vs. 2 should resem(le >i,ure ".", 2ithin the validity o0
the assum-tions.
>i,ure ".4 sho2s an ener,y level vie2
B
o0 ho2 the ener,y o0 an a(sor(ed -hoton shi0ts the ener,y o0 a
0ree electron in an >ermi sea %metal sur0ace, 0or this case+. Part o0 the ener,y hf is used to raise the
electron ener,y a(ove the >ermi ener,y, E
F
, 2hile the remainder contri(utes to its ;inetic ener,y.
!
Figure ).): /istribution of energies for free particles
Figure ).*: Energy level representation of free electron e"citation from a photon

n
.hus, de-endin, on the 0re1uency o0 li,ht used, the distri(ution o0 ;inetic ener,ies o0 the electrons
2ould (e di00erent.
4. Determination of the Stoppin !oltaes
Currently, the method o0 o(tainin, the sto--in, volta,es 0rom the I34 curves o0
-hotoelectron detectors is much o0 an art. .his section descri(es -o-ular techni1ues mentioned (y
=u,hes and 'uBrid,e

, =all and .uttle


&
, and @ri,ht
1*
.
@hen a retardin, -otential is a--lied a,ainst the -hotoelectrons, 0e2er o0 them reach the
anode and the current diminishes. >or lar,e -ositive volta,es, the current is constant as the ma/imum
num(er o0 -hotoelectrons have (een -roduced. @hen the current reaches Dero, the most ener,etic
electrons have (een turned a2ay 0rom the anode. .his ideal (ehavior is descri(ed (y the curve abcd in
>i,ure 4.1. =o2ever, the characteristics o0 the a--aratus -oses some -ro(lems, and lead to distortions.
#ince di00erent metals are used 0or anode and cathode, to reduce reverse current, there is a
nonDero contact -otential, thus the curve is shi0ted to abefd. Notice that the -osition o0 the 23
interce-t is not chan,ed (y much. =o2ever, not all o0 the reverse current can (e eliminated. .his
reverse current arises 2hen electrons esca-in, 0rom the anode %instead o0 the cathode+, due to
-hotoelectric emission on e/-osure to li,ht, or thermionic emission, due to heat. @ith the reverse
8
Figure *.1: 7riginal curve 8abcd9 distorted due to contact potential 8effect abefd9 and also
reverse current 8ghl9 to give final curve 8ghij3d9. Adapted from :ughes and /u1ridge
(
6
2 *
d
a
c
b
e
i
h
l
f
j
3
g
current o0 curve ghl, the I34 curve is lo2ered to ghij3d. In this e/-eriment, only the sto--in, volta,es
are o0 im-ortance and not the overall sha-e o0 the I34 curve. .o attem-t to recover the curve abefd, the
reverse current, ghl, should (e estimated and su(tracted o00 ghij3d. =u,hes and 'uBrid,e

, =all and
.uttle
&
, and @ri,ht
1*
also descri(e the 0unctional, yet unscienti0ic, techni1ue o0 -lottin,
6 vs 2, that
-rovides a strai,ht line in the re,ion be to 2hich a linear 0it can (e made to determine the 23interce-t
sto--in, -otential.
". Data and Data Analysis
>our sets o0 data 2ere com-iled 2ith the 0inal set -resented in $--endi/ B. .his set
consists o0 results recorded over t2o days %1
th
and )*
th
Nov )**!+, o0 2hich there are sli,ht
discre-ancies (et2een data recorded in each day, due to si,ni0icant cali(ration dri0t. $0ter some care0ul
corrections and re3normaliDations to reduce the systematic dri0t errors, the data is -lotted in >i,ure !.1,
to sho2 the I34 characteristic o0 the PM. 0or the 0ive availa(le 0ilters.
B
Figure ,.1: #caled 6-2 charateristics for various colors of light incident on the ';T.
.ompare $ith curve abcde in Figure *.1.
Most o0 this data set 2as collected under lo2 li,ht conditions in a room 2ithout li,hts and
2ith an uncovered 2indo2, either a0ter dar; or 2ith a overcast s;y 2ith dim dayli,ht. =o2ever, even
2ith the mercury lam- turned o00, and the PM. totally covered (y a the o-a1ue -art o0 the 0ilter disc,
and a (lac; cloth, a dar; current is still noticea(le. .he dar; current 0or the 2orst3case, (ri,htest
environment %see >i,ure !.)+, is considered 0or its contri(ution to the error in measurin, 6. .he
ma,nitude o0 the dar; current en0orces the -ositionin, o0 the mercury lam- close enou,h to the PM. to
-rovide a hi,h enou,h ma/imum 0or2ard current to minimiDe its e00ects.
.he (i,,est contri(ution to the error, thou,h, is the a0orementioned Hcali(ration dri0tI. >or
every 0e2 readin,s, the ma/imum 0or2ard current is chec;ed to determine ho2 much it has dri0ted,
es-ecially 0or the yello2 0re1uency. Jead:ustin, the lam- reduces the dri0t, and 0rom ho2 o0ten this has
to (e done, a va,ue notion o0 the dri0t error is estimated. It is -resented in .a(le !.1. Com(ined 2ith
the intrinsic errors o0 usin, the -icoammeter and multimeter, the total errors are estimated.
@or;in, in normaliDed currents,
< =6 / 6
*
, 2here
6
*
is the ma/imum 0or2ard current 0or
Yellow Green Blue Violet UV
Drift Error (nA) 1* " 1 4 ".!
Table ,.1: 2ery rough estimates of the drift errors for each measurement at the particular fre=uencies.

Figure ,.2: /ar3 current measured $hen the ';T is totally


covered by a blac3 cloth! in a room $ith lights off! on a rainy
day. A linear appro"imation is calculated and used to compute
its contribution to the error in 6.
&
Figure ,.): &everse currents! linearly fitted
Figure ,.*: >inear fitting of region in ? near 2#
each 0re1uency, the reverse currents
<
r
are linearly 0itted %usin, the method detailed in $--endi/ $+ to
<
r
fit
=A
r
1
r
2 %>i,ure !."+ and su(tracted 0rom < . It is noticed that the nearer the mercury lam- 2as
-laced to the PM., the lar,er the ma,nitude o0
<
r
K >i,ure !." sho2s that the lam- 2as nearest 0or
violet li,ht and 0arthest 0or (lue. Usin, the techni1ue recommended (y =u,hes and 'uBrid,e

, =all
and .uttle
&
, and @ri,ht
1*
, the 1uantity
?=

< <
r
fit
%!.1+
is -lotted a,ainst 2, to -roduce nearly strai,ht lines near the 23interce-ts %>i,ure !.4+. .his is 0it
linearly as
?
fit
=A
?
1
?
2 .
%!.)+
>rom the 23interce-t o0 E1uation !.), the sto--in, volta,e is
2
s
=A
?
/ 1
?

%!."+
>i,ure !.! -lots each 2
#
corres-ondin, to its 0re1uency, f, and conducts a 0it accordin, to E1uation ".).
1*
Figure ,.,: /etermination of the ratio he from stopping voltages. The large error in
the yello$ 8lo$est9 fre=uency is due to the severe calibration drift for that color. The
upper plot sho$s results from :all and Tuttle
@
included for comparison.
>rom 1uadrature, the errors in < and <
r
are calculated as
< =

6
6
*

6
6
*
)
6
*

)
=
1
6
*
6
)

6
6
*
6
*

)
%!.4+
Usin, $--endi/ $, the uncertainties in the coe00icients o0 <
r
fit
are determined and used to determine
<
r
fit
=

A
r

2 1
r

1
r
2

)
.
%!.!+
.he error in ? is
?=
1
) ?

<
)

<
r
fit

)
,
%!.8+
2hich is used to -rovide the 2ei,hts 0or the 2ei,hted linear least s1uares 0or ?
fit
. =avin, 2or;ed
out, via $--endi/ $, the errors in the coe00icients o0
?
fit
, the error in 2
#
is
2
s
=

A
?
1
?
1
?
)

)

A
?
1
?

)
.
%!.B+
>inally, 0rom E1uation ".) and $--endi/ $, the error in h5e, is h/ e=1 . @ith all the values
com-uted via Matla(, the ratio is 0ound to (e h/ e=".4*."1*
1!
4s . .his result is 17 o00 0rom the
acce-ted value o0 h/ e=8.8)81*
"4
Ls/ 1.8*)1*
1&
C=4.1"81*
1!
4s . .he latter value also lies
outside the ran,e o0 error 0or this e/-eriment, su,,estin, that the set3u- and5or -rocedure is not ,ood
enou,h to -rovide accurate results.
#. Alternati$e %ethods of Determinin Stoppin !oltaes
.he -revious analysis has (een used to determine the h5e ratio, (ecause o0 its sim-licity and
-o-ularity
,&,1*
. =o2ever, other more esoteric schemes have (een e/-lored.
11
Instead o0 doin, linear 0its on the data at the reverse current and interce-t re,ions, nonlinear
Figure 0.1: E"ponential fit of the reverse currents
Figure 0.2: E"ponential fit of the intercept region
e/-onential 0its o0 the 0orm a
r
e
b
r
2
c
r
is used %>i,ure 8.1, 8.)+. .his ,ives smaller residuals 0or 2ider
ran,es, (ut have uncertainties in the -arameters too lar,e that it de0eats usin, this techni1ue. @ith this,
h5e 2as calculated to (e h/ e="B1*
1!
4s , 2hich is unacce-ta(le.
$nother analysis involves loo;in, at the di00erence (et2een ad:acent -lots to ,ive the
derivative -lot d6 / d2 vs2 , in an attem-t to veri0y the theory descri(ed in at the end o0 #ection ", a(out
the >ermi3'irac distri(ution. Un0ortunately, as >i,ure 8." sho2s, the ,ra-hs do not (ehave as e/-ectedA
the -ea;s are all almost ali,ned, and the 2idths increase 2ith increasin, 0re1uency. Pro(a(ly, (ecause
1)
Figure 0.): 'lot of adjacent difference in 6 divided by the
adjacent difference in 2 against 2. .ompare $ith Figure
).) to see that the t$o are not similar.
Figure 0.*: E"ponential fit of the reverse currents
the electrons are not truly 0ree. =o2ever, on closer ins-ection, the interce-t re,ion %2hich are a(out
hal0 o0 the ori,inal analysis+ o0 this ,ra-h is also almost linear. .his su,,ests the use o0 linear 0its to
o(tain the 23interce-ts to determine 2
#
may (e 0easi(le. But ,iven the com-le/ity and lac; o0 use o0
this method, it is un0avora(le.
&. 'onclusion
.he sim-le e/-eriment o0 usin, a retardin, -otential to investi,ate -hotoelectrons to 0ind
the h5e ratio has ,iven rise to the value ".4*."1*
1!
4s 2hich is too 0ar 0rom the acce-ted value o0
4.1"81*
1!
4s . =o2ever, historically, there have (een e/-eriments
&,1*,11
conducted in a similar
manner that have ,iven much more accurate results, even thou,h the technolo,y used here, such as the
PM., did not e/ist then. .his su,,ests that much has to (e done to control the e/-erimental conditions
to 0urther reduce errors, es-ecially the cali(ration dri0t. $lso, it 2as also realiDed that the theory 0or the
-hotoelectric e00ect could still (e much more thorou,hly investi,ated to e/-lain the results discussed
re,ardin, the nonlinear (ehavior o0 the I34 characteristics. Even 2ith the im-rovements in error
1"
reduction, it seems that this classical a--roach to determinin, h5e usin, the -hotoelectric e00ect, thou,h
sim-le, is -rone to systematic errors.
Ac(no)ledements
My a--reciation ,oes out to Pro0 McEuen 0or his ,uidance, and -atience in ans2erin, the
many 1uestions I had, and Pro0 Loel Broc; 0or his -ointin, out the >ermi3'irac distri(ution o0 the
-hotoelectrons and ho2 -hoton e/citation a00ects it.
**************************************
+eferences
1. $. Einstein, $nn. d. Phys. 1,, 1") %1&*!+.
). J. $. Milli;an, Phys. Jev. B, "!! %1&18+.
". 'atasheet 0or =amamatsu Photonics C.C., Photomulti-lier .u(e 1P). Jetrieved 0rom
htt-A55sales.hamamatsu.com5assets5-d05-artsMmisc51P).-d0 on 4
th
'ecem(er )**!.
4. >. C. Jichtmyer, E. =. Cennard, 6ntroduction to ;odern 'hysics, 4E, Mc?ra23=ill, Ne2 Yor;,
1&4B, #ec !13!), !8, -&13&4, 1**31*".
!. J. Bo2ley, M. #NncheD, 6ntroductory #tatistical ;echanics, )E, 9/0ord #cience Pu(lications,
)**4, #ec 1*.)31*.", -)1)3)18.
8. J. Bo2ley, M. #NncheD, 6ntroductory #tatistical ;echanics, )E, 9/0ord #cience Pu(lications,
)**4, #ec B.", -1!*31!1.
B. L. '. Broc;, -rivate communication.
. $. L. =u,hes, L. $. 'uBrid,e, 'hotoelectric 'henomena, Mc?ra23=ill, Ne2 Yor;, 1&"),
Ch13), -13"B.
14
&. =. =. =all, J. P. .uttle, $m. Lour. Phys. "-, !* %1&B*+.
1*. @. J. @ri,ht, $merican Physics .eacher %$m. Lour. Phys.+ ", 8! %1&"B+.
11. $. C. Melissinos, E/-eriments in Modern Physics, $cademic Press, 1&88, ch1, -13)B.
1!