Resource Lesson
Famous Discoveries: The Photoelectric Effect
Printer Friendly Version
Towards the end of the 19th century, it had been experimentally observed that when ultraviolet light was shone on a negatively-charged electroscope, the charged leaves fell closer together; the electroscope discharged. This was the beginnings of the path to understanding what we now call the photoelectric effect.
When light shines on any metal surface, the surface can release electrons. If light were composed of waves, then eventually any wavelength of light should be able to build up enough energy to knock an electron free. However, scientists had discovered that only certain wavelengths worked with each metal and that electrons were either emitted instantaneously, or never emitted. They had also noticed that shorter wavelengths worked better than longer wavelengths.
The equation for the photoelectric effect was first explained by Albert Einstein in 1905.
E
_{photon}
=
Φ
+ KE
_{max}
where
E
_{photon}
= hf
is the energy present in the incident photon,
Φ
is the work function
of the metal surface off of which the photoelectrons are escaping (PE), and
KE
_{max}
is the maximum KE of the ejected photoelectrons
.
Notice that this equation is actually just a restatement of
conservation of energy
. There are two other patterns that also occurred:
The
intensity of the light source
affected the number of photoelectrons ejected from the surface since higher intensities permit more photons to strike the surface.
The
frequency of the light source
affected the kinetic energy of each photoelectron.
Since each photon can be absorbed by only ONE photoelectron (that is, there is a one-to-one correspondence), the energy of the photons directly affects the kinetic energy of the released photoelectrons.
The Experiment
The electrons with the maximum KE can be stopped from completing their journey across the photoelectric tube if there is a
stopping potential
set-up to impede their progress. The formula that relates the KE of these photoelectrons to this stopping potential is
KE
_{max}
= qV
_{stopping}
_{ }
where
V
_{stopping}
is the stopping potential, and
q is the magnitude of the charge of an electron, 1
.
6 x 10
^{-19}
coulombs.
This formula is based on the fact that work is done on charged particles when they cross through an electric field.
The work done (q
D
V) equals the change in each electron's KE.
Often the photoelectric equation is illustrated on a
graph of KE vs frequency
. On this graph, the slope ALWAYS equals Planck's constant, 6
.
63 x 10
^{-34}
J sec. It NEVER changes. All lines on this type of graph will be parallel, only differing in their y-axis intercept (-
f
) and their x-axis intercept (the threshold frequency).
The
threshold frequency
is the lowest frequency, or longest wavelength, that permits photoelectrons to be ejected from the surface. At this frequency the photoelectrons have no extra KE (KE = 0) resulting in
0 =
hf - Φ
hf =
Φ
E
_{photon}
=
Φ
Note that red light has such a low frequency (energy) that it will never eject photoelectrons - that is, the energy of a red photon is less than the work function of the metal.
Since KE = qV
_{s}
(the stopping potential), we often rearrange the equation KE = hf - Φ producing a second alternative presentation of the results of a photoelectric experiment in the form of the
graph of V
_{s}
vs 1/λ
KE =
hf - Φ
qV
_{s}
=
hf - Φ
qV
_{s}
=
h(c/λ) - Φ
V
_{s}
=
hc/q (1/λ) -
Φ
/q
In this form,
the
x-axis intercept
would represent the reciprocal of the threshold wavelength,
the
slope
would equal the expression (hc/q), and
the
y-axis intercept
would represent the work function divided by the fundamental charge of an electron.
Albert Einstein received the
Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921
for his discovery of the Law of the Photoelectric Effect, but he was unable to attend the Stockholm ceremonies. His work ended the controversy as to whether light had particle properties; that is, by invoking the quantum nature of light he was able to explain experimental results that his predecessors could not explain with just a wave model of light.
Related Documents
Lab:
Labs -
A Photoelectric Effect Analogy
Labs -
Basic Particles
Labs -
Experimental Radius
Labs -
Hydrogen Spectrum
Labs -
Hydrogen Spectrum
Labs -
Mass of an Electron
Labs -
Mass of the Top Quark
Labs -
Mirror Symmetry
Labs -
Quantized Mass
Labs -
Radiation of a Metal Cylinder
Labs -
Using Young's Equation - Wavelength of a Helium-Neon Laser
Resource Lesson:
RL -
An Outline: Dual Nature of Light and Matter
RL -
Atomic Models and Spectra
RL -
Derivation of Bohr's Model for the Hydrogen Spectrum
RL -
Energy-Level Diagrams
RL -
Excitation
RL -
Famous Discoveries and Experiments
RL -
Famous Discoveries: Bohr Model
RL -
Famous Discoveries: de Broglie Matter Waves
RL -
Famous Discoveries: The Franck-Hertz Experiment
RL -
Famous Experiments: Davisson-Germer
RL -
Famous Experiments: Michelson-Morley
RL -
Famous Experiments: Millikan's Oil Drop
RL -
Famous Experiments: The Compton Effect
RL -
Famous Experiments: The Discovery of the Neutron
RL -
Nuclear Reaction
RL -
Welcome! What is Mass?
REV -
Orbitals
Worksheet:
APP -
Eternally Bohring
APP -
Nuclear Flu
APP -
The Science Fair
APP -
What's My Line
CP -
Atomic Nature of Matter
CP -
Atomic Nucleus and Radioactivity
CP -
Balancing Nuclear Equations
CP -
Natural Transmutations
CP -
Nuclear Fission and Fusion
CP -
Radioactive Half Life
CP -
The Atom and the Quantum
NT -
Atomic Number
NT -
Beta Decay
NT -
Binding Energy
NT -
Black Holes
NT -
Electrostatic Attraction
NT -
General Relativity
NT -
Helium Balloons
NT -
Hot Springs
NT -
Hydrogen Atom
NT -
Hydrogen Fusion
NT -
Nuclear Equations
NT -
Photoelectric Effect
NT -
Radiant Energy
NT -
Radioactive Cookies
NT -
The Ax Handle
NT -
Uranium Decay
NT -
Uranium Fission
RL -
Chapter 3: Electrons
WS -
Atomic Models and Spectra
WS -
Energy Level Diagrams
WS -
Rotational and Reflection Symmetries
WS -
Standard Model: Particles and Forces
TB -
38A: Atomic Physics
TB -
Half-Life Properties
PhysicsLAB
Copyright © 1997-2015
Catharine H. Colwell
All rights reserved.
Application Programmer
Mark Acton