Can a stable gas be ionized by concentrated light?

  • #1
LastTimelord
32
0
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.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
The_Duck
1,006
107
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
LastTimelord
32
0
Thanks for your help!
 
  • #4
DrDu
Science Advisor
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905
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
36,026
12,925
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.
 

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