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The photoelectric effect[]

Main article: Photoelectric effect

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Photoelectric Effect

The photoelectric effect is a phenomenon in which electrons are emitted from matter (metals and non-metallic solids, liquids, or gases) after the absorption of energy from electromagnetic radiation such as X-rays or visible light.[1] The emitted electrons can be referred to as photoelectrons in this context. The effect is also termed the Hertz Effect,[2][3] due to its discovery by Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, although the term has generally fallen out of use. Hertz observed and then showed that electrodes illuminated with ultraviolet light create electric sparks more easily.

The photoelectric effect takes place with photons with energies from about a few electronvolts to, in some cases, over 1 MeV. At the high photon energies comparable to the electron rest energy of 511 keV, Compton scattering, another process, may take place, and above twice this (1.022 MeV) pair production may take place.

Study of the photoelectric effect led to important steps in understanding the quantum nature of light and electrons and influenced the formation of the concept of wave–particle duality.[1]

The term may also refer to the photoconductive effect (also known as photoconductivity or photoresistivitity), the photovoltaic effect, or the photoelectrochemical effect.

In another paper published in that same year, Albert Einstein undermined the very foundations of classical electromagnetism. His theory of the photoelectric effect (for which he won the Nobel prize for physics) posited that light could exist in discrete particle-like quantities, which later came to be known as photons. Einstein's theory of the photoelectric effect extended the insights that appeared in the solution of the ultraviolet catastrophe presented by Max Planck in 1900. In his work, Planck showed that hot objects emit electromagnetic radiation in discrete packets, which leads to a finite total energy emitted as black body radiation. Both of these results were in direct contradiction with the classical view of light as a continuous wave. Planck's and Einstein's theories were progenitors of quantum mechanics, which, when formulated in 1925, necessitated the invention of a quantum theory of electromagnetism. This theory, completed in the 1940s, is known as quantum electrodynamics (or "QED"), and is one of the most accurate theories known to physics.

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