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  • Describe the Davisson-Germer experiment, and explain how it provides evidence for the wave nature of electrons.

De broglie wavelength

In 1923 a French physics graduate student named Prince Louis-Victor de Broglie (1892–1987) made a radical proposal based on the hope that nature is symmetric. If EM radiation has both particle and wave properties, then nature would be symmetric if matter also had both particle and wave properties. If what we once thought of as an unequivocal wave (EM radiation) is also a particle, then what we think of as an unequivocal particle (matter) may also be a wave. De Broglie’s suggestion, made as part of his doctoral thesis, was so radical that it was greeted with some skepticism. A copy of his thesis was sent to Einstein, who said it was not only probably correct, but that it might be of fundamental importance. With the support of Einstein and a few other prominent physicists, de Broglie was awarded his doctorate.

De Broglie took both relativity and quantum mechanics into account to develop the proposal that all particles have a wavelength , given by

λ = h p (matter and photons), size 12{λ = { {h} over {p} } } {}

where h size 12{h} {} is Planck’s constant and p size 12{p} {} is momentum. This is defined to be the de Broglie wavelength    . (Note that we already have this for photons, from the equation p = h / λ size 12{p = h/λ} {} .) The hallmark of a wave is interference. If matter is a wave, then it must exhibit constructive and destructive interference. Why isn’t this ordinarily observed? The answer is that in order to see significant interference effects, a wave must interact with an object about the same size as its wavelength. Since h size 12{h} {} is very small, λ size 12{λ} {} is also small, especially for macroscopic objects. A 3-kg bowling ball moving at 10 m/s, for example, has

λ = h / p = ( 6 . 63 × 10 –34 J·s ) / [ ( 3 kg ) ( 10 m/s )] = 2 × 10 –35 m. size 12{λ = h/p"= " \( 6 "." "63 " times " 10" rSup { size 8{"–34"} } " J·s" \) / \[ \( "3kg" \) \( "10 m/s" \) " = 2 " times " 10" rSup { size 8{"–35"} } " m"} {}
This means that to see its wave characteristics, the bowling ball would have to interact with something about 10 –35 m size 12{" 10" rSup { size 8{"–35"} } " m"} {} in size—far smaller than anything known. When waves interact with objects much larger than their wavelength, they show negligible interference effects and move in straight lines (such as light rays in geometric optics). To get easily observed interference effects from particles of matter, the longest wavelength and hence smallest mass possible would be useful. Therefore, this effect was first observed with electrons.

American physicists Clinton J. Davisson and Lester H. Germer in 1925 and, independently, British physicist G. P. Thomson (son of J. J. Thomson, discoverer of the electron) in 1926 scattered electrons from crystals and found diffraction patterns. These patterns are exactly consistent with interference of electrons having the de Broglie wavelength and are somewhat analogous to light interacting with a diffraction grating. (See [link] .)

Connections: waves

All microscopic particles, whether massless, like photons, or having mass, like electrons, have wave properties. The relationship between momentum and wavelength is fundamental for all particles.

De Broglie’s proposal of a wave nature for all particles initiated a remarkably productive era in which the foundations for quantum mechanics were laid. In 1926, the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961) published four papers in which the wave nature of particles was treated explicitly with wave equations. At the same time, many others began important work. Among them was German physicist Werner Heisenberg (1901–1976) who, among many other contributions to quantum mechanics, formulated a mathematical treatment of the wave nature of matter that used matrices rather than wave equations. We will deal with some specifics in later sections, but it is worth noting that de Broglie’s work was a watershed for the development of quantum mechanics. De Broglie was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1929 for his vision, as were Davisson and G. P. Thomson in 1937 for their experimental verification of de Broglie’s hypothesis.

Questions & Answers

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Yonn
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describe how you would find the area of an irregular shaped body?
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Adesola Reply
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Soughie
physics is the Study of matter in relation to energy.
albert
physics is a natural science that study matter its behaviour and relation to energy.
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Kelly
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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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