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Can a beam of photons accelerate an atom or object?

  1. Jun 18, 2015 #1
    Not quite sure how to ask this, but here goes: I think I understand how a photon impacting an atom can increase the energy level of an electron in the atom. When I read about "light pressure", I thought, is there a way for, say, a stream of photons to accelerate an atom by continually impacting the atom until it moved or changed its velocity? Is this what light pressure does to an object? Thanks for any insights.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 18, 2015 #2

    phinds

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    Yes, "light sails" do move things because light has momentum even though it has no mass
     
  4. Jun 18, 2015 #3

    anorlunda

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  5. Jun 18, 2015 #4

    berkeman

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  6. Jun 18, 2015 #5

    jbriggs444

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  7. Jun 18, 2015 #6

    jtbell

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  8. Jun 18, 2015 #7

    ZapperZ

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    Charged particles, including heavy ions, are accelerated in particle accelerators using RF fields. So that, technically, are photons.

    Zz.
     
  9. Jun 18, 2015 #8

    berkeman

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    Very interesting, thanks! I definitely had the wrong picture in my head about how it worked.

    But so are they saying that with a fully evacuated version that has mirrors on the vanes, that you won't get rotation if you shine a strong laser on one side of one of the vanes? I suppose that the small vane pivot friction is too big to overcome with just light (as opposed to a solar sail in frictionless space)...
     
  10. Jul 4, 2015 #9
    Thanks for the response. Can you also recommend any books/articles/etc. that I can read to obtain a better understanding of this topic? For example, at what point or energy level might a stream of photons go from simply heating up an object to affecting its velocity?
     
  11. Jul 5, 2015 #10

    anorlunda

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    Ah, you may need to reprase your question. The literal answer is and and all energy levels. I think you're getting hung up on unscientific notions of "significant" heating and "significant" velocity change.
     
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