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Phet explorations: photoelectric effect

See how light knocks electrons off a metal target, and recreate the experiment that spawned the field of quantum mechanics.

Photoelectric Effect

Section summary

  • The photoelectric effect is the process in which EM radiation ejects electrons from a material.
  • Einstein proposed photons to be quanta of EM radiation having energy E = hf size 12{E = ital "hf"} {} , where f size 12{f} {} is the frequency of the radiation.
  • All EM radiation is composed of photons. As Einstein explained, all characteristics of the photoelectric effect are due to the interaction of individual photons with individual electrons.
  • The maximum kinetic energy KE e size 12{"KE" rSub { size 8{e} } } {} of ejected electrons (photoelectrons) is given by KE e = hf – BE size 12{"KE "= ital "hf"" – BE"} {} , where hf size 12{ ital "hf"} {} is the photon energy and BE is the binding energy (or work function) of the electron to the particular material.

Conceptual questions

Is visible light the only type of EM radiation that can cause the photoelectric effect?

Which aspects of the photoelectric effect cannot be explained without photons? Which can be explained without photons? Are the latter inconsistent with the existence of photons?

Is the photoelectric effect a direct consequence of the wave character of EM radiation or of the particle character of EM radiation? Explain briefly.

Insulators (nonmetals) have a higher BE than metals, and it is more difficult for photons to eject electrons from insulators. Discuss how this relates to the free charges in metals that make them good conductors.

If you pick up and shake a piece of metal that has electrons in it free to move as a current, no electrons fall out. Yet if you heat the metal, electrons can be boiled off. Explain both of these facts as they relate to the amount and distribution of energy involved with shaking the object as compared with heating it.


What is the longest-wavelength EM radiation that can eject a photoelectron from silver, given that the binding energy is 4.73 eV? Is this in the visible range?

263 nm

Find the longest-wavelength photon that can eject an electron from potassium, given that the binding energy is 2.24 eV. Is this visible EM radiation?

What is the binding energy in eV of electrons in magnesium, if the longest-wavelength photon that can eject electrons is 337 nm?

3.69 eV

Calculate the binding energy in eV of electrons in aluminum, if the longest-wavelength photon that can eject them is 304 nm.

What is the maximum kinetic energy in eV of electrons ejected from sodium metal by 450-nm EM radiation, given that the binding energy is 2.28 eV?

0.483 eV

UV radiation having a wavelength of 120 nm falls on gold metal, to which electrons are bound by 4.82 eV. What is the maximum kinetic energy of the ejected photoelectrons?

Violet light of wavelength 400 nm ejects electrons with a maximum kinetic energy of 0.860 eV from sodium metal. What is the binding energy of electrons to sodium metal?

2.25 eV

UV radiation having a 300-nm wavelength falls on uranium metal, ejecting 0.500-eV electrons. What is the binding energy of electrons to uranium metal?

What is the wavelength of EM radiation that ejects 2.00-eV electrons from calcium metal, given that the binding energy is 2.71 eV? What type of EM radiation is this?

(a) 264 nm

(b) Ultraviolet

Find the wavelength of photons that eject 0.100-eV electrons from potassium, given that the binding energy is 2.24 eV. Are these photons visible?

What is the maximum velocity of electrons ejected from a material by 80-nm photons, if they are bound to the material by 4.73 eV?

1.95 × 10 6 m/s size 12{1 "." "95" times "10" rSup { size 8{6} } " m/sec"} {}

Photoelectrons from a material with a binding energy of 2.71 eV are ejected by 420-nm photons. Once ejected, how long does it take these electrons to travel 2.50 cm to a detection device?

A laser with a power output of 2.00 mW at a wavelength of 400 nm is projected onto calcium metal. (a) How many electrons per second are ejected? (b) What power is carried away by the electrons, given that the binding energy is 2.71 eV?

(a) 4.02 × 10 15 /s size 12{4 "." "02" times "10" rSup { size 8{"15"} } "/s"} {}

(b) 0.256 mW

(a) Calculate the number of photoelectrons per second ejected from a 1.00-mm 2 area of sodium metal by 500-nm EM radiation having an intensity of 1 . 30 kW/m 2 size 12{1 "." "30 kW/m" rSup { size 8{2} } } {} (the intensity of sunlight above the Earth’s atmosphere). (b) Given that the binding energy is 2.28 eV, what power is carried away by the electrons? (c) The electrons carry away less power than brought in by the photons. Where does the other power go? How can it be recovered?

Unreasonable Results

Red light having a wavelength of 700 nm is projected onto magnesium metal to which electrons are bound by 3.68 eV. (a) Use KE e = hf BE size 12{"KE "= ital "hf"" – BE"} {} to calculate the kinetic energy of the ejected electrons. (b) What is unreasonable about this result? (c) Which assumptions are unreasonable or inconsistent?

(a) –1.90 eV

(b) Negative kinetic energy

(c) That the electrons would be knocked free.

Unreasonable Results

(a) What is the binding energy of electrons to a material from which 4.00-eV electrons are ejected by 400-nm EM radiation? (b) What is unreasonable about this result? (c) Which assumptions are unreasonable or inconsistent?

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, College physics -- hlca 1104. OpenStax CNX. May 18, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11525/1.1
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