Physics » Introduction to Quantum Physics » The Photoelectric Effect

Summarizing the Photoelectric Effect

Photoelectric Effect Summary

  • The photoelectric effect is the process in which EM radiation ejects electrons from a material.
  • Einstein proposed photons to be quanta of EM radiation having energy \(E=\text{hf}\), where \(f\) is the frequency of the radiation.
  • All EM radiation is composed of photons. As Einstein explained, all characteristics of the photoelectric effect are due to the interaction of individual photons with individual electrons.
  • The maximum kinetic energy \({\text{KE}}_{e}\) of ejected electrons (photoelectrons) is given by \({\text{KE}}_{e}=\text{hf}\text{– BE}\), where \(\text{hf}\) is the photon energy and BE is the binding energy (or work function) of the electron to the particular material.


photoelectric effect

the phenomenon whereby some materials eject electrons when light is shined on them


a quantum, or particle, of electromagnetic radiation

photon energy

the amount of energy a photon has; \(E=\text{hf}\)

binding energy

also called the work function; the amount of energy necessary to eject an electron from a material

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