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  • Relate the linear momentum of a photon to its energy or wavelength, and apply linear momentum conservation to simple processes involving the emission, absorption, or reflection of photons.
  • Account qualitatively for the increase of photon wavelength that is observed, and explain the significance of the Compton wavelength.

Measuring photon momentum

The quantum of EM radiation we call a photon    has properties analogous to those of particles we can see, such as grains of sand. A photon interacts as a unit in collisions or when absorbed, rather than as an extensive wave. Massive quanta, like electrons, also act like macroscopic particles—something we expect, because they are the smallest units of matter. Particles carry momentum as well as energy. Despite photons having no mass, there has long been evidence that EM radiation carries momentum. (Maxwell and others who studied EM waves predicted that they would carry momentum.) It is now a well-established fact that photons do have momentum. In fact, photon momentum is suggested by the photoelectric effect, where photons knock electrons out of a substance. [link] shows macroscopic evidence of photon momentum.

(a) Trajectory of a comet with a nucleus and tail as it passes by the Sun is shown as a partial parabolic path with Sun near the vertex of the parabolic path. (b) The photograph of a moving Hale Bopp comet in space is shown as bright lighted object.
The tails of the Hale-Bopp comet point away from the Sun, evidence that light has momentum. Dust emanating from the body of the comet forms this tail. Particles of dust are pushed away from the Sun by light reflecting from them. The blue ionized gas tail is also produced by photons interacting with atoms in the comet material. (credit: Geoff Chester, U.S. Navy, via Wikimedia Commons)

[link] shows a comet with two prominent tails. What most people do not know about the tails is that they always point away from the Sun rather than trailing behind the comet (like the tail of Bo Peep’s sheep). Comet tails are composed of gases and dust evaporated from the body of the comet and ionized gas. The dust particles recoil away from the Sun when photons scatter from them. Evidently, photons carry momentum in the direction of their motion (away from the Sun), and some of this momentum is transferred to dust particles in collisions. Gas atoms and molecules in the blue tail are most affected by other particles of radiation, such as protons and electrons emanating from the Sun, rather than by the momentum of photons.

Connections: conservation of momentum

Not only is momentum conserved in all realms of physics, but all types of particles are found to have momentum. We expect particles with mass to have momentum, but now we see that massless particles including photons also carry momentum.

Momentum is conserved in quantum mechanics just as it is in relativity and classical physics. Some of the earliest direct experimental evidence of this came from scattering of x-ray photons by electrons in substances, named Compton scattering after the American physicist Arthur H. Compton (1892–1962). Around 1923, Compton observed that x rays scattered from materials had a decreased energy and correctly analyzed this as being due to the scattering of photons from electrons. This phenomenon could be handled as a collision between two particles—a photon and an electron at rest in the material. Energy and momentum are conserved in the collision. (See [link] ) He won a Nobel Prize in 1929 for the discovery of this scattering, now called the Compton effect    , because it helped prove that photon momentum    is given by

Questions & Answers

how many subject is in physics
Adeshina Reply
yh I need someone to explain something im tryna solve . I'll send the question if u down for it
Tamdy Reply
a ripple tank experiment a vibrating plane is used to generate wrinkles in the water .if the distance between two successive point is 3.5cm and the wave travel a distance of 31.5cm find the frequency of the vibration
the range of objects and phenomena studied in physics is
Bethel Reply
what is Linear motion
Hamza Reply
straight line motion is called linear motion
then what
linear motion is a motion in a line, be it in a straight line or in a non straight line. It is the rate of change of distance.
your are wrong Saeedul
Linear motion is a one-dimensional motion along a straight line, and can therefore be described mathematically using only one spatial dimension
what is the formula to calculate wavelength of the incident light
David Reply
if a spring is is stiffness of 950nm-1 what work will be done in extending the spring by 60mmp
Hassan Reply
State the forms of energy
Samzy Reply
Word : Mechanical wave Definition : The waves, which need a material medium for their propagation, e.g., Sound waves. \n\nOther Definition: The waves, which need a material medium for their propagation, are called mechanical waves. Mechanical waves are also called elastic waves. Sound waves, water waves are examples of mechanical waves.t Definition: wave consisting of periodic motion of matter; e.g. sound wave or water wave as opposed to electromagnetic wave.h
Clement Reply
what is mechanical wave
Akinpelu Reply
a wave which require material medium for its propagation
The S.I unit for power is what?
Samuel Reply
Am I correct
it can be in kilowatt, megawatt and so
OK that's right
SI.unit of power is.watt=j/c.but kw.and Mw are bigger.umots
What is physics
aish Reply
study of matter and its nature
The word physics comes from a Greek word Physicos which means Nature.The Knowledge of Nature. It is branch of science which deals with the matter and energy and interaction between them.
why in circular motion, a tangential acceleration can change the magnitude of the velocity but not its direction
Syafiqah Reply
because it is balanced by the inward acceleration otherwise known as centripetal acceleration
What is a wave
Mutuma Reply
Tramsmission of energy through a media
is the disturbance that carry materials as propagation from one medium to another
mistakes thanks
find the triple product of (A*B).C given that A =i + 4j, B=2i - 3j and C = i + k
Favour Reply
Difference between north seeking pole and south seeking pole
Stanley Reply
Practice Key Terms 2

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