Some notes on photoelectric effect

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Some notes on photoelectric effect

© All Rights Reserved

- Unit 12A Quantum Physics
- Solution Manual for Quantum Chemistry 7th Edition by Levine
- NSEJS-2013-14 Paper With Solution
- Jee
- Cape Physics
- a recap of motivations
- Photoelectric Effect
- Arthur Young LightAndChoice RefUniv
- p30de9906
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- On speed of EM waves-D L Khoklov
- Nature of Light A
- Structure of a Quantized VStructure of a Quantized Vortex in Boson Systems ortex in Boson Systems - Gross 1961
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- quiz3.docx

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Lets us first review the properties of wave. Up until you study wave, you

had studied the basis of Newtonian Mechanics (F = ma and whatnot), which

tells you how objects move under various forces. In more technical language, we

say Newtonian mechanics deals with the motion of particle, because in applying

F = ma we typically ignore the actual shape and structure of the object but

treat it as if it is just a point mass with no size. Think of your trajectory motion;

even though a baseball has a finite volume, when solving problem we only talk

about THE y-coordinate of the ball (the coordinate of what? The center? The

top? The bottom?).

Of course, in the real world everything has size, so apart from displacements,

they can also undergo other type of motion. In particular, if the object is de-

formable (can change shape), then each individual part of the object can be in

independent motion (oscillation especially) while keeping the object as a whole

stationary (So the object is not displaced). We call this a wave motion.

an independent entity, for example it can be passed through from one object

to another, hence we often treat wave as a separate physical object (and an

abstract) from its medium.

with each other. This allows the phenomena of interfere and diffraction occurs.

Think of the waving string as a continuous set of infinitely small simple oscilla-

tor. Each oscillator has total energy E = 21 kA2 , and it is obvious that the total

energy, as the sum of all these 12 kA2 , is controlled by A.

1

In particular, in the case of electromagnetic waves, or in other words, light,

the energy is related to the amplitude (or intensity) of the wave only but

nothing else, in the classical wave picture.

cles:

1. Particles are localized (the apple is on the tree), whereas waves are ex-

tended and distributed (Wheres the wave? It is everywhere!)

by momentum p and energy E.

3. Waves can diffract around obstacles, while particles will only be reflected

if blocked.

4. Particles are discrete, you can count and labeled them as 1, 2, 3...; waves

have infinitely many modes, and you can have a continuum of waves at

arbitrary amplitudes (you can turn on your light as bright or as dim as

you like)

5. Waves can overlap hence interfere with each other (superposition), whereas

particles can only collide

2

1.4 Light as a Wave

The question of what exactly is light had been one of the biggest questions

in classical physics. Newton and his followers thought light are particles while

Hooke (the one who wrote F = kx for springs) and many others thought

light is some kind of wave. The controversy was not ended until finally in

1801 Thomas Young had performed his famous double-slit experiment (this

experiment is so important that DSE forces you to study it even though it is

already 217 years since its first came out).

strated light must be a wave, as I had argued in Sect. 1.3.

In 1887, Hertz (what you called Hz = s1 ) found that when a metal surface is

shinned with light, electrons can be emitted from the surface. This is what we

now called the photoelectric effect.

using a circuit:

When the is turned on, the metal plates will become charged and creat-

ing a electric field hence a potential difference between the plate (same

magnitude as the source but different direction).

2. One of the metal plates are then shinned by a light source and emits

electrons, if the emitted electrons has enough energy then a current will

be passed through the circuit (photocurrent).

3. The voltage value will be continuously adjusted until no electron can get

across the potential difference, we call that the stopping potential Vs Then

by energy conservation E = K eVs = 0, at the end, so K = eVs . This

will be the maximal possible kinetic energy of the emitted electrons.

Not all electrons emitted with the same energy K, because each electron in-

teract and bounded with the metal atoms in a very complicated way, depending

on how strongly it is bounded, more energy is needed to kick it out from the

metal hence less energy is available to be its kinetic energy. But Kmax = eVs is

3

the maximum that can be achieved, and it corresponds to the least bounded

electron. We hence define:

The work function is the minimal energy required to remove the least

bounded electron from the metal.

The classical physicists thought that they knew light well enough, thus following

their classical knowledge of light, they made the following theory and predictions

for the photoelectric effect:

waves depended on intensity, so it is intuitive to expect that with higher

intensity, more energy can be transported to the electrons.

2. Independent of f requency: Since the energy of classical EM waves de-

pend only on the intensity, so the frequency or the color of the light used

should be completely irrelevant.

3. Delay bef ore f irst emission: In the classical wave theory of light, energy

is distributed throughout the wave, and the time is needed before the

electron absorbed enough energy from the wave to be freed.

A standard laser pointer your teacher uses for class have a power of about

P = 1mW on a area of about A0 1cm2 . Suppose you point that to a metal

atom, who typcially has a radius of r 0.1 109 m and a work function of

about 1eV , then classically you would expect the first electron to be fired

with a time delay t of

Energy N eeded

t =

P ower received by atom

= P 2

A0 r

10( 19)

= 1103

(110 2) (1 109 )2

= 1 sec

So these are the classical prediction. What you have to understand is that,

people in that time thought that physics was completed and they knew every-

thing about physics, about waves and about light. So people in that time is

seriously expecting that their wave theory of the photoelectric effect is correct

there is no reason for it to be wrong.

4

2.3 The Experimental Results

But of course, you know how the story goes everything they thought they

knew is completely wrong and not even close.

related to frequency f To put that graphically, if we plot the photocur-

rent as a function of applied voltage, the plot goes like this: (positive V

means forward voltage, which favor the flow of current; negative V means

backward voltage, which resist the flow of current.

though Kmax is related only to frequency, the actual size of the current

is still proportional to the intensity. This is perhaps the only thing that

matches the classical prediction.

frequency f0 , under which no photoelectric effect is observable . This is

striking. As a classical wave, light should have its energy proportional

to its intensity (brightness), but this result is saying that no matter how

bright your light source is, if it does not have the right color then no

electron can ever be kicked out by the light (why?).

109 second of time. This again is puzzling. No matter how weak your

light source is, as soon as you shine your light to the metal, the electron

immediately absorbed enough energy to escape, which is unexplainable

by the wave theory of light.

5

Moral of story: Photoelectric effect is something that classical physics com-

pletely failed to explain. There is something more about light that we did not

know, and we need to figure that out.

3 Photon

The resolution eventually came from the famous genius Albert Einstein in

1905 (His Nobel prize was in fact awarded for his work on photoelectric effect).

Stay tuned, not everyone has the luck to learn about the great thoughts from

Einstein.

The problem is that light is a wave, which is impossible to have the photo-

electric effect. To solve this problem, Einstein postulate the following

Einstein:

1. Light is not a just wave, but also a beam of localized particles called

photon.

2. Each photon has energy E = hf ; if there are n photon then the total

E = nhf

3. The intensity of a beam of light is related to the number of photon in

there but not the energy of the individual photon

4. In the photoelectric effect, a photon somehow collide with the electron, and

during the interaction, the photon transfer all its energy to the electron

hence kicking it out from the metal.

Now light is not a wave, problem solved. In particular, the photoelectric effect

can be explained in a simple particle collision picture, which you know well

enough to analyze.

then upon the interaction with the photon, we obtain the kinetic energy of the

electron as

6

K = hf (1)

And the reason why there is a cutoff frequency f0 is because the incoming

photon must have enough energy to overcome the attraction from the work

function, so the cutoff occurs when after absorbing the photon, the electron has

exactly zero energy (meaning the electron is completely free from attraction but

has no motion)

0 = hf0 (2)

f0 = (3)

h

hc

= (4)

Finally, this particle picture of light also explain why the photocurrent still

proportion to light intensity and why the first emission of electron occurs almost

immediately. Since the intensity of light tells you how many photon is there

in your light beam, so more intense light has more photon and causes more

electron to be kicked out. Being a measurement of how many electron is flowing

(I = q

t ), I is naturally proportional to the intensity of the current. Also, since

photoelectric effect is interpreted as some sort of collision between photons and

electrons, it is natural that the electron is immediately kicked out when it got

shined by a light.

4 Conclusion

Ok. So in the beginning I said light is wave because only wave, but not particle,

can interfere. But now I said light is particle because only if it is something like

a particle, but not wave, then can it exhibit the photoelectric effect. So whats

the deal?

The answer took quite a great effort for the 20th century physicists to figure

out, and the final answer is No and No.

that we can describe fully using our knowledge of classical physics. We need

something else; we need a new formalism of physics to understand these objects,

7

and this is what we called nowaday Quantum Mechanics. In the language of

quantum mechanics, light is not a wave nor a particle, it is a quantum called

the photon. It is localized like particles but can interfere with each others

like a wave. And while it has definite momentum and energy like a particle,

you cannot know where exactly is it at any moment; it is spreaded out like

a wave. Strange things like this happen all the time in quantum mechanics,

and to understand how photon interact exactly with electrons would require

something called QED (quantum electrodynamics), which is one step (or several

steps) further from quantum mechanics.

quantum mechanics, which is one of the two main branch of our modern physics.

Perhaps thats why you are forced to study it by DSE. I would love to tell you

more about quantum mechanics, but that is a bit too far beyond your DSE

Physics.

5 Exercise

energy goes into emitted light of wavelength 600 nm. (a) Calculate the frequency

of the emitted light. (b) How many photons per second does the source emit?

(c) Are the answers to parts (a) and (b) the same? Is the frequency of the light

the same thing as the number of photons emitted per second? Explain.

2. What would the minimum work function for a metal have to be for visible light

(380750 nm) to eject photoelectrons?

Ans: 1.77eV

surface, the maximum kinetic energy of the emitted photoelectrons is measured to

be 1.10 eV. What is the maximum kinetic energy of the photoelectrons when light of

wavelength 300.0 nm falls on the same surface?

Ans: 2.14eV

4. The photoelectric work function of potassium is 2.3 eV. If light having a wave-

length of 250 nm falls on potassium, find (a) the stopping potential in volts; (b) the

kinetic energy in electron volts of the most energetic electrons ejected; (c) the speed

of these electrons. (Electron has mass me = 9.11 1031 kg)

nated with light of wavelength 259.8 nm. What is the stopping potential?

Ans: 0.964 V

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