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Energy levels in a potential well

  1. Jun 5, 2008 #1
    I know this question seems very simple which is why its bugging me so much:
    Why is the ground state energy not zero?
    A simple answer would be greatly appreciated
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 5, 2008 #2
    Energy states are defined with priciple quantum number (n). n= 1,2,3....

    [tex]E_{n}= \frac{-me^{4}}{2h^{2}n^{2}}[/tex]

    "Ground state" means 1st term in serie of "n" and it's 1.

    You may ask, why doesn't "n" start from zero? When you put 0 for n, energy goes to infinite and that mean electron separated from atom. That's why n doesn't start from zero.

    And finally your question, there is allways a energy in an atom because of the Coloumb potential. The energy never been zero.
  4. Jun 5, 2008 #3
    Only changes in energy are physical. You can define the ground state of any particular system to have zero energy.
  5. Jun 5, 2008 #4
    Thank you very much for your help torehan!
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