Can a stable gas be ionized by concentrated light?

In summary, when an electron is hit by multiple photons, it is possible for the electron to become no longer attached to the particle. This is known as ionization and can occur when a single photon has enough energy or when several photons with high intensity are present, such as in laser technology. This process is important in various scientific phenomena, including the ionization of hydrogen in interstellar space and the laser enrichment of uranium. However, electrons that are only briefly raised to a higher energy level within an atom will quickly fall back down to the lowest energy level.
  • #1
I know that an electron can be brought to a higher energy level when hit by a photon, but if it is hit by several photons, is it possible that it will become no longer attached to the particle?

This may be a stupid question, I'm not a scientist.
 
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  • #2
Yes, for example stars can ionize the hydrogen in interstellar space: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H_II_region

I may be wrong about this, but I would guess that most such ionization occurs when the atom is hit by a single photon with high enough energy to knock the electron away. Electrons that are only raised to a higher level within the atom very quickly (within nanoseconds or microseconds) fall back down to the lowest energy level.
 
  • #3
Thanks for your help!
 
  • #4
This also forms the basis for laser enrichment e.g. of Uranium: Uranium hexafluoride (UF6) is ionized by intense infrared laser light of which many quanta have to be absorbed to lead to ionization. The ionization yield depends on the precise laser frequency and the isotope (238-U vs. 235-U).
 
  • #5
LastTimelord said:
I know that an electron can be brought to a higher energy level when hit by a photon, but if it is hit by several photons, is it possible that it will become no longer attached to the particle?
If the single photon has enough energy, it can ionize the atom directly.

Several photons at the same time require really high photon densities - something you only get with lasers, but it is possible today.
 

1. Can a stable gas be ionized by concentrated light?

Yes, it is possible for a stable gas to be ionized by concentrated light. This process is known as photoionization and occurs when high energy photons from the light interact with the gas molecules, causing them to lose electrons and become ionized.

2. What types of light can ionize a gas?

Any type of light with high enough energy can potentially ionize a gas. This includes ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays. However, the intensity and wavelength of the light also play a role in the ionization process.

3. How does ionization of a gas by concentrated light occur?

Ionization occurs when photons from the light interact with the electrons in the gas molecules, causing them to become excited and break free from their atoms. This creates positively charged ions and free electrons in the gas.

4. What are the applications of ionization by concentrated light?

Ionization by concentrated light has various applications in different fields. In physics and chemistry, it is used to study the properties and behavior of gases. It is also used in analytical techniques such as mass spectrometry. In astrophysics, it helps in understanding the composition of stars and interstellar medium.

5. Can ionization by concentrated light be controlled?

Yes, the intensity and wavelength of the light can be controlled to some extent to influence the degree of ionization in a gas. This allows for precise manipulation and study of the ionization process. However, controlling ionization in a gas is a complex process and is still an area of ongoing research.

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