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While solving problems we need to decide for ourselves whether we should consider the wave property or the particle property of light. For example, when dealing with interference and diffraction, light should be treated as a wave, whereas when dealing with photoelectric effect we consider the particle nature.

Applications of the photoelectric effect

We have learnt that a metal contains electrons that are free to move between the valence and conduction bands. When a photon strikes the surface of a metal, it gives all its energy to one electron in the metal.

  • If the photon energy is equal to the energy between two energy levels then the electron is excited to the higher energy level.
  • If the photon energy is greater than or equal to the work function (energy needed to escape from the metal), then the electron is emitted from the surface of the metal (the photoelectric effect).

The work function is different for different elements. The smaller the work function, the easier it is for electrons to be emitted from the metal. Metals with low work functions make good conductors. This is because the electrons are attached less strongly to their surroundings and can move more easily through these materials. This reduces the resistance of the material to the flow of current i.e. it conducts well. [link] shows the work functions for a range of elements.

Work functions of selected elements determined from the photoelectric effect. (From the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics.)
Element          Work Function ( J )
Aluminium     6 , 9 × 10 - 19
Beryllium     8 , 0 × 10 - 19
Calcium     4 , 6 × 10 - 19
Copper     7 , 5 × 10 - 19
Gold     8 , 2 × 10 - 19
Lead     6 , 9 × 10 - 19
Silicon     1 , 8 × 10 - 19
Silver     6 , 9 × 10 - 19
Sodium     3 , 7 × 10 - 19

Interesting fact

The electron volt (eV) is the kinetic energy gained by an electron passing through a potential difference of one volt (1 V ). A volt is not a measure of energy, but the electron volt is a unit of energy. When you connect a 1 . 5 V battery to a circuit, you can give 1 . 5 eV of energy to every electron.

Ultraviolet radiation with a wavelength of 250 nm is incident on a silver foil (work function φ = 6 , 9 × 10 - 19 ). What is the maximum kinetic energy of the emitted electrons?

  1. We need to determine the maximum kinetic energy of an electron ejected from a silver foil by ultraviolet radiation.

    The photoelectric effect tells us that:

    E k = E p h o t o n - φ E k = h c λ - φ

    We also have:

    Work function of silver: φ = 6 , 9 × 10 - 19 J

    UV radiation wavelength = 250 nm = 250 × 10 - 9 m

    Planck's constant: h = 6 , 63 × 10 - 34 m 2 kg s - 1

    speed of light: c = 3 × 10 8 m s - 1

  2. E k = h c λ - φ = [ 6 , 63 × 10 - 34 × 3 × 10 8 250 × 10 - 9 ] - 6 , 9 × 10 - 19 = 1 , 06 × 10 - 19 J

    The maximum kinetic energy of the emitted electron will be 1 , 06 × 10 - 19 J .

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If we were to shine the same ultraviolet radiation ( f = 1 , 2 × 10 15 Hz ), on a gold foil (work function = 8 , 2 × 10 - 19 J ), would any electrons be emitted from the surface of the gold foil?

For the electrons to be emitted from the surface, the energy of each photon needs to be greater than the work function of the material.

  1. E p h o t o n = h f = 6 , 63 × 10 - 34 × 1 , 2 × 10 15 = 7 , 96 × 10 - 19 J

    Therefore each photon of ultraviolet light has an energy of 7 , 96 × 10 - 19 J .

  2. φ g o l d = 8 , 2 × 10 - 19 J
  3. 7 , 96 × 10 - 19 J < 8 , 2 × 10 - 19 J E p h o t o n s < φ g o l d

    The energy of each photon is less than the work function of gold, therefore, the photons do not have enough energy to knock electrons out of the gold. No electrons would be emitted from the gold foil.

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Units of energy

When dealing with calculations at a small scale (like at the level of electrons) it is more convenient to use different units for energy rather than the joule (J). We define a unit called the electron-volt (eV) as the kinetic energy gained by an electron passing through a potential difference of one volt.

E = q × V

where q is the charge of the electron and V is the potential difference applied. The charge of 1 electron is 1 , 6 × 10 - 19  C, so 1 eV is calculated to be:

1 eV = ( 1 , 610 - 19 C × 1 V ) = 1 , 6 × 10 - 19 J

You can see that 1 , 6 × 10 - 19 J is a very small amount of energy and so using electron-volts (eV) at this level is easier.

Hence, 1eV = 1 . 6 × 10 - 19 J which means that 1 J = 6 . 241 × 10 18 eV

Real-life applications

Solar cells

The photo-electric effect may seem like a very easy way to produce electricity from the sun. This is why people choose to make solar panels out of materials like silicon, to generate electricity.In real-life however, the amount of electricity generated is less than expected. This is because not every photon knocks out an electron. Other processes such as reflection or scattering also happen. This means that only a fraction 10 % (depends on the material) of the photons produce photoelectrons. This drop in efficiency results in a lower current. Much work is being done in industry to improve this efficiency so that the panels can generate as high a current as possible, and create as much electricity as possible from the sun. But even these smaller electrical currents are useful in applications like solar-powered calculators.

The photoelectric effect

  1. Describe the photoelectric effect.
  2. List two reasons why the observation of the photoelectric effect was significant.
  3. Refer to [link] : If I shine ultraviolet light with a wavelength of 288 nm onto some aluminium foil, what would be the kinetic energy of the emitted electrons?
  4. I shine a light of an unknown wavelength onto some silver foil. The light has only enough energy to eject electrons from the silver foil but not enough to give them kinetic energy. (Refer to [link] when answering the questions below:)
    1. If I shine the same light onto some copper foil, would electrons be ejected?
    2. If I shine the same light onto some silicon, would electrons be ejected?
    3. If I increase the intensity of the light shining on the silver foil, what happens?
    4. If I increase the frequency of the light shining on the silver foil, what happens?

Questions & Answers

how is ester formed
Aubrey Reply
how is n ester formed
Aubrey
Alcohol reacts with a carboxylic acid
Texas
an athlete with a mass of 70kg runs at a velocity of 45km . determine the athlete's momentum
Lesedi Reply
Is that a velocity or something else
msawenkosi
45km/h i guess
Texas
Change to m/s
Texas
45km/h = 12.5 m/s p=mv =70×12.5 =875 kg.m/s
Thato
what are the measures of the rates of reaction
Lesego Reply
Volume Concentration Temperature Pressure Surface Area
Thato
the principle of superposition of waves
Sfundo Reply
what is work
Kool Reply
is this a group chat
Nobuhle Reply
Hey can y'all define newton's 2nd law
mthebzification
If a resultant force act on an object...the object will accelerate in the direction of a resultant force,the acceleration of the object is directly proportional to the net force and inversely proportional to the mass of the object
mosa
how do you calculate tension force
Bulumko
use the formula Fnet=ma if there is tension connecting two objects
Sboniso
to calculate Tension, usually calculate acceleration first Draw separate free body diagrams for each body. Apply Fnet = ma to calculate Tension
Kevin
Hi people
Paul
how does temperature affect the equilibrium position
Blessing Reply
an increased temperature increases the average kinetic energy thus in turn increases the number of effective collisions........
Lwando
so...which reaction is favored between endothermic and exothermic .when temperature is increased..?
Blessing
exothermic reaction because energy is realised to the surroundings as heat and light energy ....graphical so much energy is realised as reactants to form product and because temperature is high rate of reaction is fast which means there is a successful collision
Code
INTEMENDO - INCREASE IN TEMPERATURE FAVOURS ENDOTHERMIC DETEMEXO - DECREASE IN TEMPERATURE FAVOURS EXOTHERMIC
Thato
an object will continue in a state of rest unless it is acted upon an unbalanced force
Junior Reply
Newton's Law 1
Code
First Newton's Law
Azola
Newton's first law
Surprise
newton first law
Thinavhuyo
Newton's first law
Blessing
when pressure is increased what happen to volume
Siphelo Reply
decreases
Code
care to explain?
Mpati
if pressure is applied to a pistol , the volume will decrease and particles will collide more frequently with the wall of a container .Each time they collide with the wall they exert a force on them .More collision means more force and the pressure will increase , that Boyle's Law
Code
Because the volume has decreased , the particle will collide more frequently with the wall of a container and each time they collide with the wall of a container they exert a force on them.More collision means more force so the pressure will increase , that Boyle's Law
Code
what is the difference between momentum and a change in momentum?
Chavonne Reply
How to name a branched molecule from right or left?
Vadin Reply
What's Free Fall
Senzo Reply
Free Fall means there is no acting force on that object.
Dingaletu
only gravitational force
Dingaletu
no external force acting on an object
Sphiwe
by only force of gravite
Sello
but gravitational force
Sphiwe
true
Lucky
a motion in which the only force acting is gravitational force
Blessing
and an object experiencing free fall is referred as a projectile
Blessing
Do polymers form restrictedly only if compound is saturated, only?
milani Reply
what is a free fall?
Beyanca Reply
is when The Only Force acting On an Object is Gravitational Force
Madman
Thats right
Beyanca
then Why ask when you Know the answer?
Madman
She's just helping those who forgot it...bro
Thato
guys I need help on Getting ready for a last minute test
Kenelioe Reply
what help you need
Neil
we'll I'm in grade 12 so we doing this topic about upac thing
Kenelioe
on What?
Madman
the organic molecule section
Kenelioe
IUPAC NAMING WHICH FUNCTIONAL GROUP YOU CANNOT NAME?SO I COULD HELP YOU
Madman
ester
Sboniso
you should also look at structural isomers. Its crucial that they might add that one. also try and write down the structural formula of all the given compounds on the table
milani

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Source:  OpenStax, Siyavula textbooks: grade 12 physical science. OpenStax CNX. Aug 03, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11244/1.2
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