Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Electrons in a Metal

  1. Apr 19, 2015 #1
    Hi All,

    Lets assume, we have piece of cubic copper of side length 1 cm metal with neutral charge, so:

    1) The free electrons in this piece of copper exist everywhere as waves? , each electron with its quantum state.
    2) On applying an external electric field the wave-function collapse and they start behaving like particles ?

    Are the above conclusions right ?

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 19, 2015 #2


    User Avatar
    2017 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    It is just a model, but that model is not so bad here.
    No. Unless your "electric field" is something like visible light, with sufficient energy to excite electrons.
  4. Apr 19, 2015 #3
    Is there a more accurate model ?
    But how can we account for the drift velocity, due to electrons migration by applying an electric field
  5. Apr 20, 2015 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    There are electronic wavefunctions for drifting electrons.
  6. Apr 20, 2015 #5
    You mean the electrons behaving as wave packets of plane waves ? , if so, its interesting how a field affects a wave packet.
    Can we say an electron is a particle in reaction and a wave in action ?
  7. Apr 20, 2015 #6


    User Avatar
    2017 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    Depends on what you want to do.
    A wavefunction can have a momentum, corresponding to drifting electrons.

    Forget the whole idea of "wave or particle". An electron is neither. It is a quantum object.
  8. Apr 20, 2015 #7
    What is your goal? To interpret quantum mechanics? To understand a metal ?
  9. Apr 20, 2015 #8
    Neither, I am just trying to comprehend, how electrons (quantum particles) exist everywhere in the metal and in the same time obeys newtons laws of motion under the application of an electric field.
  10. Apr 20, 2015 #9


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    You can describe electron motion and charge transport in metals using full quantum mechanical description via the Kubo formulation. But why would you want to if the characteristics that you want to measure can be described sufficiently by the semi-classical Boltzmann transport description? To want to use the full QM picture (which isn't easy at all) to get at those characteristics is like asking a house builder to use Special Relativity to do his job!

Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook