Answer the following question.
Why is the wave theory of electromagnetic radiation not able to explain the photoelectric effect? How does a photon picture resolve this problem?
There are three main drawbacks:
- Intensity: If we consider light as a wave then as the intensity of the light is increased the amplitude of the oscillation of the electron will increase. Thus, as the intensity of the incident light is increased the maximum kinetic energy of the emitted electron will also increase. But it was observed that the kinetic energy of the emitted electrons does not depend on the intensity whereas the magnitude of the photoelectric current increases with the frequency.
- Frequency: If we consider the light as a wave then the photoelectric emission should happen on any frequency, but it was observed that the electrons are emitted after a particular frequency. If the frequency of the incident light is lesser than this frequency there is no photoelectric emission observed.
- Time Delay: According to the wave theory the energy is uniformly distributed over the wavefront. As the light falls on the metallic surface, it will take some time for the electron to gain sufficient energy to get emitted. But experimentally it was observed that the electrons are emitted instantaneously as the light falls on the metallic surface.
How the photon theory can explain the photoelectric effect:
- According to photon theory increasing the intensity means increasing the number of photons that do not change the maximum kinetic energy but changes the number of ejected electrons.
- The energy of a photon is given as E = hf that explains the dependence of the energy on the frequency, after a particular frequency of a photon that is threshold frequency there is photoelectric emission.
- As soon as a photon falls on the metallic surface it is absorbed, hence the electron is ejected instantaneously. Hence, all these are in accordance with the experimental observations.