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Planck's Constant and the Law of Capacitance

Working Paper March 2017


DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.32461.84963

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Plancks Constant and the Law of Capacitance

Lori-Anne Gardi
Senior Software Developer, Robarts Research Institute, Western University
lori.anne.gardi@gmail.com

Abstract
Using the law of capacitance, the exact value of Plancks constant is derived from scratch. The assumption here is
that the energy of light is directly related to the phenomenon of capacitance.

1 Introduction

Although Plancks constant, h, is a common character in the equations of theoretical physics, the reason for
its exact value is not well understood. This value was derived empirically by Max Planck in the early 1900s
and has been used, as is, ever since. A literature search shows that this value has never been derived from
first principles. In this article, the exact value of Plancks constant is derived using the law of capacitance.
Since light waves are often thought of as plane waves, the parallel plate capacitor seems well suited for this
derivation. Some assumptions are made about the geometry of the photon in this article. The validity of
these assumptions is discussed in Section 3.

2 Light as a Parallel Plate Capacitor

The equation used to calculate the capacitance of a parallel plate capacitor is as follows:

A LW
C = 0 = 0 (1)
d d
Here, 0 is the permittivity of free space, A is the surface area of each plate (A = L x W ), and d is the distance
between the plates. Notice that as you decrease the distance between the plates, capacitance increases and
as you decrease the surface area, capacitance decreases. Although this may seem trivial to mention, it is an
important point for the purpose of this discussion. Next, we substitute L, W and d with the wavelength of
light, as follows:


C = 0 = 0 (2)

Here, the assumption is made that L = W = d = . This seems reasonable since the wavelength, , is the
only quantifiable feature of a single oscillation of light. Frequency of light is related to wavelength by the
following formula:

c
= (3)
f
This will be used later to derive equaiton (9). The potential energy of a capacitor takes the following form:

1 Q2
E= (4)
2 C
Replacing C with equation (2) gives the following:

1 Q2
E= (5)
2 0
It was noticed in the literature that the permittivity constant, 0 , is almost always accompanied by the con-
stant, 4. Here, the atomic unit of permittivity, defined by NIST, [1] is as follows:

1 = 40 (6)

In order put 1 into the equation, we multiply equation (5) by 4/4 and simplify:

1 Q2 4 2 Q2
E= = (7)
2 0 4 1
Now, we are going to substitute Q2 with the elementary charge of a particle, e:

2 e2
E= (8)
1
Substituting (3 into 8) gives the following:

2 e2
E=[ ]f (9)
1 c
This equation is starting to look like Plancks energy equation, E = hf ; however, the quantity in brackets
does not evaluate to Plancks constant, h, until we apply the fine structure constant as follows:

2 e2
E=[ ]f (10)
1 c
Here, the quantity in square brackets evaluates to exactly Plancks constant. But where does come from?
Elementary charge is related to Planck charge, qpl , by the following:

e2
2
qpl = 20 h c = 2 = 2.2102 1035 (11)

This allows us to simplify (10) to the following:

2
qpl
E=[ ]f (12)
1 c
In other words:

2
qpl
h= (13)
1 c
Understanding the recipricol nature of permittivity and permeability (c 1 = 1/c 1 ), allows us to write
equation (13) in terms of the permeability of free space, as follows:

2
h = qpl 1 c (14)

Here, 1 = 0 /4.
Equations (13) and (14) give us a clean look at Plancks constant without any unitless constants such as 2,
4 and which unnecessarily complicate the equations. (In computer science, this is referred to as code
cleanup). Here, Plancks constant is defined in terms of the permittivity of free space, the permeability of
free space, the rate of propagation of a wave in free space and Planck charge which here, interprets as the
charge associated with free space. What does this mean for the theory of light?

3 Discussion

It is commonly understood that higher frequency light carries more energy than lower frequency light. This
is why a high frequency ultraviolet light can do more damage to our skin than infra red light. This is also why
X-rays and gamma rays are so dangerous. Here, I am going to argue that one unit of light (one wavelength
of light) carries one unit of energy, that is, the energy equal to Plancks constant, h. Historically, Plancks
constant is assigned the units of action, however, in a previous paper by the author [2], an argument is made
for Plancks constant as an energy constant. This is the energy per one cycle or oscillation of a light wave.
Figure 1 will be used to help understand this logic:

Figure 1 : This figure depicts light waves at three different frequencies. At the right is a detector
of some sort. The vertical parallel lines to the left of each wave represent the parallel plates of
a (virtual) capacitor occupying one wave length of the wave. The small dot within the capacitor
represents the energy contained within each wave. Each dot has energy, E, equal to Plancks
constant, i.e., 6.62607004 1034 [J].

Figure 1 is a depiction of three different light waves of different frequencies (i.e., different wavelengths).
The one on the top has a lower frequency (larger wavelength). The one on the bottom has a higher frequency
(smaller wavelength). In order for L = W = d in equation (2), the size of the wave must change with the
frequency of the wave. In terms of the parallel plate capacitor analogy, as the distance between the plates gets
smaller (which increases capacitance), the surface area of the plates must also get smaller (which decreases
capacitance). This ensures that each wavelength, , of light will carry the same energy (Plancks constant or
h), no matter what the frequency. This, I propose, is the true meaning behind Plancks constant. In Figure 1,
energy is quantized by h, regardless of frequency.
Although this may sound counter-intuitive in terms of standard thinking, with a small change in per-
spective, this is easily explained. Since the speed of light, c, is constant, all of these waves are propagating
(moving toward the detector) at the same rate. We can see from Figure 1 that more energy units will hit
the detector per unit time in the bottom wave than in the top wave. This explains why higher frequency
light carries more energy than lower frequency light. Higher frequency light transports more energy to
the detector per unit time. Using this logic, it is clear to see that every single oscillation of light (which is
not a photon) carries the same energy regardless of wavelength. In other words, photons, ill-defined by the
standard model as fundamental particles, in reality correspond to the transport of energy per unit time to a
detector (or from an emitter). The real fundamental particle is the particle associated with one unit of energy,
h which I affectionately refered to in a previous paper [3] as an OM particle. The photon of the standard
model, according to the logic presented herein, is merely a misunderstanding of the nature of light and, by
definition, cannot be fundamental.
This line of thinking explain why, when you bring two parallel plate capacitors together, the capacitor
can store more charge. This is easily explained using Figure 2.

Figure 2 : This figure depicts a capacitor with various distances, d, between the parallel plates.
As you can see, the capacitor with the smallest distance between the capacitor is able to store
more energy units than the capacitor with a larger distance.

Using the model presented in Figure 2, the capacitor with the smaller spacing is able to store more
energy units than the capacitor with a larger spacing. This is because the capacitor with the larger spacing
can only store the energy of a few wavelengths whereas the capacitor with the smaller spacing can store
the energy of many wavelengths. In the model presented herein, each wavelength contains only one unit of
energy equal to Plancks constant, h [J].

4 Conclusion

Using the law of capacitance and the analogy of a parallel plate capacitor, the exact value of Plancks constant
is derived from scratch. This leads to an alternate way of describing light that has each wavelength of light
carrying the same unit of energy. In this model, a photon corresponds to the number of energy units
transported per unit time. This line of thinking gives a logical explanation as to why parallel plate capacitors
can store more energy units when the spacing between the parallel plates is decreased.

5 Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Lane Davis for the idea of modelling the photon as a parallel plate capacitor[4]. Although
my approach was slightly different than yours, the idea of relating the photon to the law of capacitance came
directly from your paper and our discussions.
References

[1] National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg MD, 20899,


From: http://physics.nist.gov/constants, All values (ascii),
http://physics.nist.gov/cuu/Constants/Table/allascii.txt, (retrieved, Feb. 13, 2017).
[2] Gardi, Lori-Anne. Calibrating the universe, and why we need to do it. Physics Essays 29.3 (2016):
327-336.
[3] Gardi, L. The Mandelbrot set and the fractal nature of light, the Universe, and everything. SPIE
Optical Engineering+ Applications. International Society for Optics and Photonics, 2013.
[4] Davis, Lane M. Quantized Capacitance and Energy of the Atom and Photon. (2015).

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