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Is the photoelectric effect a particle phenomenum?

  1. Jun 27, 2006 #1
    Apologies if this has come up before, but a week or so ago I read a paper or article that said the photoelectric effect was not necessarily a particle phenomenum after all, despite Einstein's Nobel prize. I didn't pay much attention to it because I was interested in something else at the time, but the subject came up on another thread where it would be off-topic, so:

    Does anybody know of any discussion or postulates saying that the photoelectric effect is not necessarily a particle phenomenum?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 27, 2006 #2
    Well, if one takes the postion that electrons are particles and, if one takes the position that electrons are the very constituents of "current" flow, than the end-result is indeed a "particle" phenomenon.
    Of course, during the photoelectric event, photons are "absorbed" in such a way as to create the event itself.
    Speaking only for myself, though a photon can exhibit particle/wave duality, I would venture that the photon absorption resulting in the photoelectric effect is a wave function.
    Even still, you brought-up a curious question. Perhaps someone can jump-in and clarify.
  4. Jun 27, 2006 #3
    I couldn't find the article concerned, I'll look for it again tomorrow.

    Meanwhile here's a link to an article that gives some history.


    "Einstein's revolutionary paper
    Although Einstein wrote five fundamental papers in 1905, only one - the article showing that light consists of discrete quantum particles - was truly revolutionary, argues John S Rigden..."
  5. Jun 27, 2006 #4
    It it quite possible to derive the basic phenomena of the photoelectric effect with fully classical light, as long as the material the light is shone upon is fully quantum mechanical. If you're so inclined, you might want to look for a short paper by Lamb and Scully on exactly this issue (W. Lamb & M. Scully, "The Photoelectric Effect Without Photons," Polarisation, Matiere et Rayonnement (Presses Univ. de France, Paris, 1969), pp. 363-9.)
  6. Jul 5, 2006 #5
    Thanks Parlyne. I'll look it up. At the moment I can't find it online.

    http://hcr3.isiknowledge.com/formViewCharacteristic.cgi?table=Publication&link1=Biography&id=1915&nav=p9 [Broken]

    I came across this on Google:

    edit: link deleted

    Can any experts tell me if it's bona fide? Or is it some crackpot spouting off?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  7. Jul 5, 2006 #6


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    It's crackpot. What does photoelectric effect have anything to do with photoionization? And transfering energy to the nucleus? Oh brother!

    Please note that if we have to tackle every single crackpot website you find by googling, we'd never get anything done on here. This is why we do not encourage advertizing such websites on here.

  8. Jul 5, 2006 #7
    OK thanks Zapper. I'll get rid.
  9. Jul 5, 2006 #8
    And I'll have a good old browse of a crank.net website I found that says what's dodgy.
  10. Jul 5, 2006 #9


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    That's intriguing. I thought that the issue of time delay in the emission of the photoelectrons was an argument for photons. That a classical EM field would take much too long to build up the energy needed to eject the electrons. I am curious about how they take care of this.

    Interesting reference! Thanks!
  11. Jul 6, 2006 #10


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    Well, if you treat the material part as quantum mechanical, and you treat the field as a classical potential, you find that, no matter how short the time, you have a finite AMPLITUDE to eject an electron.

    The argument about the "not enough energy to eject a an electron" is fallacious for two reasons: it neglects the quantum-mechanical treatment of the material part (in that it is sufficient to have a non-zero amplitude to have emission). But you can even derive a completely classical photo electric effect if you allow for background noise.

    It is only in the case of a *purely classical* system with *no background noise* that the "energy accumulation argument" works.
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