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Development of Quantum Theory Continued

Development of Quantum Theory Continued

Shortly after de Broglie proposed the wave nature of matter, two scientists at Bell Laboratories, C. J. Davisson and L. H. Germer, demonstrated experimentally that electrons can exhibit wavelike behavior by showing an interference pattern for electrons travelling through a regular atomic pattern in a crystal. The regularly spaced atomic layers served as slits, as used in other interference experiments.

Since the spacing between the layers serving as slits needs to be similar in size to the wavelength of the tested wave for an interference pattern to form, Davisson and Germer used a crystalline nickel target for their “slits,” since the spacing of the atoms within the lattice was approximately the same as the de Broglie wavelengths of the electrons that they used.

The figure below shows an interference pattern. It is strikingly similar to the interference patterns for light shown in a previous lesson. The wave–particle duality of matter can be seen in the figure below by observing what happens if electron collisions are recorded over a long period of time. Initially, when only a few electrons have been recorded, they show clear particle-like behavior, having arrived in small localized packets that appear to be random. As more and more electrons arrived and were recorded, a clear interference pattern that is the hallmark of wavelike behavior emerged.

Thus, it appears that while electrons are small localized particles, their motion does not follow the equations of motion implied by classical mechanics, but instead it is governed by some type of a wave equation that governs a probability distribution even for a single electron’s motion. Thus the wave–particle duality first observed with photons is actually a fundamental behavior intrinsic to all quantum particles.

This figure has two parts. Part a shows a diagram of an electron source emitting waves that pass through two narrow slits in a barrier. A wave interference pattern results on the opposite side of the barrier that result in evenly spaced, relatively wide horizontal grey lines on a black surface. The black surface is placed at a distance beyond the barrier. Part b shows an electron source at the far left. Two gold arrows point toward two narrow horizontal slits in a barrier. Around these arrows are many small golden dots. On the right side of the barrier, the gold dots are more widely dispersed. A black surface a distance beyond the barrier shows evenly, yet widely dispersed gold dots. An arrow is present below this black surface and is labeled, “Time.” A second black surface is shown to the right that has many more golden dots that appear to be organizing into a pattern of evenly spaced horizontal line segments. A third black surface is shown even further to the right in which many more gold dots are shown in a very clearly established, evenly spaced pattern of horizontal line segments.

(a) The interference pattern for electrons passing through very closely spaced slits demonstrates that quantum particles such as electrons can exhibit wavelike behavior. (b) The experimental results illustrated here demonstrate the wave–particle duality in electrons. The electrons pass through very closely spaced slits, forming an interference pattern, with increasing numbers of electrons being recorded from the left image to the right. With only a few electrons recorded, it is clear that the electrons arrive as individual localized “particles,” but in a seemingly random pattern. As more electrons arrive, a wavelike interference pattern begins to emerge. Note that the probability of the final electron location is still governed by the wave-type distribution, even for a single electron, but it can be observed more easily if many electron collisions have been recorded.

Optional Video: Dr. Quantum – Double Slit Experiment

View the Dr. Quantum – Double Slit Experiment cartoon for an easy-to-understand description of wave–particle duality and the associated experiments.

Calculating the Wavelength of a Particle

If an electron travels at a velocity of 1.000 \(×\) 107 m s–1 and has a mass of 9.109 \(×\) 10–28 g, what is its wavelength?

Solution

We can use de Broglie’s equation to solve this problem, but we first must do a unit conversion of Planck’s constant. You learned earlier that 1 J = 1 kg m2/s2. Thus, we can write h = 6.626 \(×\) 10–34 J s as 6.626 \(×\) 10–34 kg m2/s. 

\(\lambda =\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\cfrac{h}{mv}\)

\(\begin{array}{}=\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\cfrac{6.626\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}×\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{10}^{-34}{\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\text{kg m}}^{\text{2}}\text{/s}}{\left(9.109\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}×\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{10}^{-31}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\text{kg}\right)\left(1.000\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}×\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{10}^{7}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\text{m/s}\right)}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\\ =\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}7.274\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}×\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{10}^{-11}\text{m}\end{array}\)

This is a small value, but it is significantly larger than the size of an electron in the classical (particle) view. This size is the same order of magnitude as the size of an atom. This means that electron wavelike behavior is going to be noticeable in an atom.

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