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GASES]
 877
CONDUCTION, ELECTRIC

that in liquids showing photo-electric effects there is always strong absorption; we may, however, have absorption without these effects. Phosphorescent substances, such as calcium sulphide show this effect, as also do various specimens of fluor-spar. As phosphorescence and fluorescence are probably accompanied by a very intense absorption by the surface layers, the evidence is strong that to get the photo-electric effects we must have strong absorption of some kind of light, either visible or ultra-violet.

EB1911 Conduction, Electric - Fig. 14.jpg
Fig. 14.

If a conductor A is placed near a conductor B exposed to ultra-violet light, and if B is made the negative electrode and a difference of potential established between A and B, a current of electricity will flow between the conductors. The relation between the magnitude of the current and the difference of potential when A and B are parallel plates has been investigated by Stoletow (Journal de physique, 1890, 11, p. 469), von Schweidler (Wien. Ber., 1899, 108, p. 273) and Varley (Phil. Trans. A., 1904, 202, p. 439). The results of some of Varley’s experiments are represented in the curves shown in fig. 14, in which the ordinates are the currents and the abscissae the potentials. It will be seen that when the pressure is exceedingly low the current is independent of the potential difference and is equal to the negative charge carried off in unit time by the corpuscles emitted from the surface exposed to the light. At higher pressures the current rises far above these values and increases rapidly with the potential difference. This is due to the corpuscles emitted by the illuminated surface acquiring under the electric field such high velocities that when they strike against the molecules of the gas through which they are passing they ionize them, producing fresh ions which can carry on additional current. The relation between the current and the potential difference in this case is in accordance with the results of the theory of ionization by collision. The corpuscles emitted from a body under the action of ultra-violet light start from the surface with a finite velocity. The velocity is not the same for all the corpuscles, nor indeed could we expect that it should be: for as Ladenburg has shown (Ann. der Phys., 1903, 12, p. 558) the seat of their emission is not confined to the surface layer of the illuminated metal but extends to a layer of finite, though small, thickness. Thus the particles which start deep down will have to force their way through a layer of metal before they reach the surface, and in doing so will have their velocities retarded by an amount depending on the thickness of this layer. The variation in the velocity of the corpuscles is shown in the following table, due to Lenard (Ann. der Phys., 1902, 8, p. 149).

  Carbon. Platinum. Aluminium.
 Corpuscles emitted with velocities      
  between 12 and 8×107 cm sec. 0.000 0.000 0.004
  between 8 and 4×107 cm sec. 0.049 0.155 0.151
  between 4 and 0×107 cm sec. 0.67  0.65  0.49 
 Corpuscles only emitted with the help       
  of an external electric field. 0.28  0.21  0.35 
  1.00  1.00  1.00 

If the illuminated surface is completely surrounded by an envelope of the same metal insulated from and completely shielded from the light, the emission of the negative corpuscles from the illuminated surface would go on until the potential difference V between this surface and the envelope became so great that the corpuscles with the greatest velocity lost their energy before reaching the envelope, i.e. if m is the mass, e the charge on a corpuscle, v the greatest velocity of projection, until Ve = 1/2mv2. The values found for V by different observers are not very consistent. Lenard found that V for aluminium was about 3 volts and for platinum 2. Millikan and Winchester (Phil. Mag., July 1907) found for aluminium V = .738. The apparatus used by them was so complex that the interpretation of their results is difficult.

An extremely interesting fact discovered by Lenard is that the velocity with which the corpuscles are emitted from the metal is independent of the intensity of the incident light. The quantity of corpuscles increases with the intensity, but the velocity of the individual corpuscles does not. It is worthy of notice that in other cases when negative corpuscles are emitted from metals, as for example when the metals are exposed to cathode rays, Canal-strahlen, or Röntgen rays, the velocity of the emitted corpuscles is independent of the intensity of the primary radiation which excites them. The velocity is not, however, independent of the nature of the primary rays. Thus when light is used to produce the emission of corpuscles the velocity, as Ladenburg has shown, depends on the wave length of the light, increasing as the wave length diminishes. The velocity of corpuscles emitted under the action of cathode rays is greater than that of those ejected by light, while the incidence of Röntgen rays produces the emission of corpuscles moving much more rapidly than those in the cases already mentioned, and the harder the primary rays the greater is the velocity of the corpuscles.

The importance of the fact that the velocity and therefore the energy of the corpuscles emitted from the metal is independent of the intensity of the incident light can hardly be overestimated. It raises the most fundamental questions as to the nature of light and the constitution of the molecules. What is the source of the energy possessed by these corpuscles? Is it the light, or in the stores of internal energy possessed by the molecule? Let us follow the consequences of supposing that the energy comes from the light. Then, since the energy is independent of the intensity of the light, the electric forces which liberate the corpuscles must also be independent of that intensity. But this cannot be the case if, as is usually assumed in the electromagnetic theory, the wave front consists of a uniform distribution of electric force without structure, for in this case the magnitude of the electric force is proportional to the square root of the intensity. On the emission theory of light a difficulty of this kind would not arise, for on that theory the energy in a luminiferous particle remains constant as the particle pursues its flight through space. Thus any process which a single particle is able to effect by virtue of its energy will be done just as well a thousand miles away from the source of light as at the source itself, though of course in a given space there will not be nearly so many particles to do this process far from the source as there are close in. Thus, if one of the particles when it struck against a piece of metal caused the ejection of a corpuscle with a given velocity, the velocity of emission would not depend on the intensity of the light. There does not seem any reason for believing that the electromagnetic theory is inconsistent with the idea that on this theory, as on the emission theory, the energy in the light wave may instead of being uniformly distributed through space be concentrated in bundles which occupy only a small fraction of the volume traversed by the light, and that as the wave travels out the bundles get farther apart, the energy in each remaining undiminished. Some such view of the structure of light seems to be required to account for the fact that when a plate of metal is struck by a wave of ultra-violet light, it would take years before the corpuscles emitted from the metal would equal in number the molecules on the surface of the metal plate, and yet on the ordinary theory of light each one of these is without interruption exposed to the action of