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Waves and Particles

Wave–particle duality is the concept that all matter exhibits both wave and particle properties. Being a central concept of quantum mechanics, this duality addresses the inadequacy of classical concepts like "particle" and "wave" in fully describing the behavior of quantum-scale objects.


Orthodox interpretation of quantum mechanics explain this ostensible paradox as a fundamental property of the Universe, while alternative interpretations explain the duality as an emergent, second-order consequence of various limitations of the observer. 



This treatment focuses on explaining the behavior from the perspective of the widely used Copenhagen interpretation, in which wave–particle duality is one aspect of the concept of complementarity, that a phenomenon can be viewed in one way or in another, but not both simultaneously.Idea of dualityThe idea of duality originated in a debate over the nature of light and matter dating back to the 1600s, when competing theories of light were proposed by Christiaan Huygens and Isaac Newton: light was thought either to consist of waves (Huygens) or of corpuscles [particles] (Newton). Through the work of Max planck,


Albert Einstein, Louis de Broglie, Authur Compton, Niels Bohr, and many others, current scientific theory holds that all particles also have a wave nature (and vice versa). This phenomenon has been verified not only for elementary particles, but also for compound particles like atoms and even molecules. In fact, according to traditional formulations of non relativistic quantum mechanics, wave–particle duality applies to all objects, even macroscopic ones; but because of their small wavelengths, the wave properties of macroscopic objects cannot be detected. 


 Planck's formula for black-body radiationIn 1901,Max Planck published an analysis that succeeded in reproducing the observed spectrum of light emitted by a glowing object. To accomplish this, Planck had to make an ad hoc mathematical assumption of quantized energy of the oscillators (atoms of the black body) that emit radiation. It was Einstein who later proposed that it is the electromagnetic radiation itself that is quantized, and not the energy of radiating atoms. 


 Einstein's explanation of the photoelectric effectIn 1905, Albert Einstein provided an explanation of the photoelectric effect, a hitherto troubling experiment that the wave theory of light seemed incapable of explaining. He did so by postulating the existence of photons, quanta of light energy with particulate qualities.In the photoelectric effect, it was observed that shining a light on certain metals would lead to an electric current in a circuit. 


Presumably, the light was knocking electrons out of the metal, causing current to flow. However, using the case of potassium as an example, it was also observed that while a dim blue light was enough to cause a current, even the strongest, brightest red light available with the technology of the time caused no current at all. According to the classical theory of light and matter, the strength or amplitude of a light wave was in proportion to its brightness: a bright light should have been easily strong enough to create a large current. Yet, oddly, this was not so. 


 Einstein explained this conundrum by postulating that the electrons can receive energy from electromagnetic field only in discrete portions (quanta that were called photons): an amount of energy E that was related to the frequency f of the light byE = h f\,where h is Planck,s constant (6.626 × 10−34 J seconds). Only photons of a high enough frequency (above a certain threshold value) could knock an electron free. For example, photons of blue light had sufficient energy to free an electron from the metal, but photons of red light did not. More intense light above the threshold frequency could release more electrons, but no amount of light (using technology available at the time) below the threshold frequency could release an electron. To "violate" this law would require extremely high intensity lasers which had not yet been invented. Intensity-dependent phenomena have now been studied in detail with such lasers.Einstein was awarded the Noble Prize in Physics in 1921 for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.