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Atomic and

Nuclear Physics
Atomic structure
Atomic Structure
John Dalton said that atoms were tiny
indivisible spheres, but in 1897 J. J.
Thomson discovered that all matter contains
tiny negativelycharged particles.
He showed that these particles are smaller
than an atom.
He had found the first subatomic particle
the electron.
Thomsons Crossed-Field
In 1895 Thomson measured the deflection of
cathode-ray particles by both a magnetic and
electric field.
Parallel-plate electrodes and the poles of a magnet
were placed so that the electric and magnetic fields
were perpendicular to each other, thus creating
what came to be known as a crossed-field
Thomson was the first to measure the charge-to-
mass ratio q/m of cathode rays (electrons).
q/m = 1.76 1011 C/kg
Scientists then set out to find the structure of
the atom.
Thomson thought that the atom was a
positive sphere of matter and the negative
electrons were embedded in it as shown here
This `model' was called the `plumpudding'
model of the atom.
Rutherford and the Discovery of the
In 1896 Rutherfords
experiment was set up
to see if any alpha
particles were
deflected from gold
foil at large angles.
Not only were alpha
particles deflected at
large angles, but a very
few were reflected
almost straight
backward toward the
Most of the particles passed straight
through the foil, but to his surprise a few
were scattered back towards the source.
Rutherford said that this was rather like
firing a gun at tissue paper and finding that
some bullets bounce back towards you!
The nuclear model of the atom
Rutherford soon realized that the positive
charge in the atom must be highly
concentrated to repel the positive aparticles
in this way.
The diagram shows a simple analogy:
The ball is rolled towards the hill and
represents the aparticle.
The steeper the `hill' the more highly
concentrated the charge.
The closer the approach of the steel ball to
the hill, the greater its angle of deflection.
In 1911 Rutherford described his
nuclear model of the atom. He said
All of an atom's positive charge and most of
its mass is concentrated in a tiny core.
Rutherford called this the nucleus.
The electrons surround the nucleus, but they
are at relatively large distances from it.
The atom is mainly empty space!
The Nuclear Model of the atom
Can we use this model to explain the particle
The concentrated positive charge produces an
electric field which is very strong close to the
The closer the path of the particle to the
nucleus, the greater the electrostatic repulsion
and the greater the deflection.
Most particles are hardly deflected
because they are far away from the
nucleus and the field is too weak to repel
them by much.
The electrons do not deflect the particles
because the effect of their negative charge
is spread thinly throughout the atom.
Using this model Rutherford calculated that the
diameter of the gold nucleus could not be larger
than 10-14 m.
This diagram is not to scale. With a 1 mm diameter
nucleus the diameter of the atom would have to be
10 000 mm or 10 m!
The nucleus is like a pea at the centre of a football
Millikan and the Fundamental Unit of
Millikan observed oil droplets in an electric field.
He found that some of his droplets were positively
charged and some negatively charged, but all had
charges that were integer multiples of a certain
minimum charge value.
That value, the fundamental unit of charge that we now
call e, is measured to be

We can then combine the measured e with the measured

charge-to-mass ratio to find that the mass of the
electron is
EXAMPLE Suspending an oil drop
EXAMPLE Suspending an oil drop
EXAMPLE Suspending an oil drop
EXAMPLE Suspending an oil drop
The Electron Volt
Consider an electron
accelerating (in a vacuum)
from rest across a parallel
plate capacitor with a 1.0 V
potential difference.
The electrons kinetic energy
when it reaches the positive
plate is 1.60 1019 J.
Let us define a new unit of
energy, called the electron
volt, as 1 eV = 1.60 1019 J.
EXAMPLE Energy of an electron
EXAMPLE Energy of an electron
EXAMPLE Energy of an electron
EXAMPLE Energy of an electron
Energy Levels
Thomas Melville was the first to study the light
emitted by various gases.
He used a flame as a heat source, and passed
the light emitted through a prism.
Melville discovered that the pattern produced by
light from heated gases is very different from the
continuous rainbow pattern produced when
sunlight passes through a prism.
The new type of spectrum consisted of a series of
bright lines separated by dark gaps.
This spectrum became known as a line spectrum.
Melvill also noted the line spectrum produced by a
particular gas was always the same.
In other words, the spectrum was
characteristic of the type of gas, a kind of
"fingerprint" of the element or compound.
This was a very important finding as it

opened the door to further studies, and

ultimately led scientists to a greater
understanding of the atom.
Spectra can be categorized as either emission or
absorption spectra.
An emission spectrum is, as the name suggests, a
spectrum of light emitted by an element.
It appears as a series of bright lines, with dark gaps
between the lines where no light is emitted.
An absorption spectrum is just the opposite,
consisting of a bright, continuous spectrum
covering the full range of visible colours, with dark
lines where the element literally absorbs light.
The dark lines on an absorption spectrum will fall
in exactly the same position as the bright lines on
an emission spectrum for a given element, such as
neon or sodium.
Emission Spectra

Absorption Spectra
For example, the emission spectrum of
sodium shows a pair of characteristic bright
lines in the yellow region of the visible
An absorption spectrum will show 2 dark lines

in the same position.

What causes line spectra?
You always get line spectra from atoms that
have been excited in some way, either by
heating or by an electrical discharge.
In the atoms, the energy has been given to
the electrons, which then release it as light.
Line spectra are caused by changes in the
energy of the electrons.
Large, complicated atoms like neon give very
complex line spectra, so physicists first
investigated the line spectrum of the simplest
possible atom, hydrogen, which has only one
Planck and Einstein's quantum theory of light
gives us the key to understanding the regular
patterns in line spectra.
The photons in these line spectra have certain
energy values only, so the electrons in those
atoms can only have certain energy values.
This energy level diagram shows a very simple
case. It is for an atom in which there are only two
possible energy levels:
The electron, shown by the blue dot, has the
most potential energy when it is on the upper
level, or excited state.
When the electron is on the lower level, or
ground state, it has the least potential energy.
The diagram shows an electron in an excited atom
dropping from the excited state to the ground state.
This energy jump, or transition, has to be done as
one jump.
It cannot be done in stages.
This transition is the smallest amount of energy that
this atom can lose, and is called a quantum (plural
= quanta).
The potential energy that the electron has lost is
given out as a photon.
This energy jump corresponds to a specific
frequency (or wavelength) giving a specific line in
the line spectrum.
This outlines the evidence for the existance of
atomic energy levels.
1860 - 1900
All objects emit electromagnetic waves. For a solid
object, such as the hot filament of a light bulb, these
waves have a continuous range of wavelengths, some
of which are in the visible spectrum. The continuous
range of wavelengths is a result of the entire collection
of atoms that make up the solid.
In contrast, individual atoms, free of the strong
interactions that are present in a solid, emit only certain
specific wavelengths that are unique to those atoms.

Li Na K
Absorption Spectrum
To study the behaviour of individual atoms, low-pressure gases are
used in which the atoms are relatively far apart.
A source of radiation that contains all wavelengths is passed
through the sample of gas and the resultant spectrum is examined .
The gas absorbs some of the wavelengths of the light
source. The observed spectrum, therefore, has lines
missing which correspond to the absorbed wavelengths.
Emission Spectrum
Emission spectra can be observed by
supplying a sufficiently large potential
difference across the gas within a tube.
Individual wavelengths emitted by the gas
can be observed.
Absorption and emission spectra for the same gas
Emission spectrum of hydrogen

From 1860 to 1885 spectroscopic

measurements accumulated rapidly.

Accurate measurements of four visible

emission lines of hydrogen had
recently been made by Anders
Angstroms Measurements


H = 656.3 nm H = 486.1 nm
H = 434.1 nm H = 410.2 nm
Balmer Series
By trial and error a Swiss
school teacher, Johann Balmer,
found a formula which correctly
predicted the wavelengths of
Angstroms four visible lines.
Balmer gave his formula in the form:

(cm) C2 2 2 n = 3, 4, 5, ...
n 2
Where C2 = 3645.6 x 108 cm and is known as the
convergence limit.
Only four lines were known to Balmer when he
started his investigation of the spectral series.
By the time he finished, ten more lines in the
violet and ultraviolet range had been measured.
These newly measured lines agreed to the
empirical formula to within 0.1%!
Encouraged by his success, Balmer
speculated that other hydrogen series
might exist of the form:

n 2
(cm) C2 2 2
n 3

n 2
(cm) C2 2 2
n 4
Rydberg Formula
Balmer was correct.
The Rydberg formula combines all of
these series into the single formula:

1 1 1
R 2
n 2
f i

Where nf and ni are integers.

ni = nf + 1
The Rydberg constant (R) = 1.0973 x 107 m-1
Spectral series for Hydrogen
Limitations of Rutherfords Model
1. Only accounts for half of the nuclear

Rutherford had no precise answer to this

question. He speculated that the difference
between the mass of the protons and the
mass of the nucleus could be accounted for
by groupings of neutral particles, each
consisting of a bound electron-proton pair.

This theory held appeal as it built the atom out of

the known fundamental particles at the time.
2. What keeps the protons confined in such
a small space.

Rutherford thought that The nucleus although

of minute dimensions, is in itself a very
complex system consisting of positively and
negatively charged bodies bound closely by
intense electrical forces.

It was not until 1921 that it was clearly

recognised that the electrostatic force did
not hold the nucleus together and that a
totally new force, the strong nuclear force,
bound the protons together.
3. How do electrons orbit
around the nucleus to form
a stable atom and how
does this movement
account for observed
spectral patterns.

Classical atom should emit

continuous band of color;
Real experiments show
sharp lines

Accelerating charges emit electromagnetic

radiation, lose energy, spiral in and collapse!?
Rutherford atom NOT stable!
Bohrs Model
Bohr Postulate 1
The electron moves in a circular orbit
around the nucleus under the influence of
the electrostatic force.

So far nothing new!

Bohr Postulate 2
Only certain orbits are stable.

These are the orbits in which the electron does

not radiate.
Energy is fixed and stationary.
Classical mechanics may be used to describe
the electrons motion in these
stable orbits.
Bohr Postulate 3
Radiation is emitted or
absorbed if an electron moves
between energy levels.

Radiation is released in the

form of a photon. The
frequency of the photon emitted
is related to the difference in
the energy levels according to
the Planck-Einstein formula:

Ei E f hf
Bohr Postulate 4
The size of the stable orbits are determined
by imposing a further quantum constraint
on the angular momentum of the electrons.

L me vr nh
where h
Allowed energy orbits
The total energy of the
orbit it a combination
of the electrons
kinetic energy and
electric potential
me v
2 (1)
Also the centripetal force is due to the
electrostatic force:
2 2
mv ke
r r
1 ke
2 mv 2
1 2
Substituting (2) into (1):
Radius of electron orbit
Take postulate 4, solve for v, and square.
me r
2 2
v 2 2
me r

Take (2) and solve for v2.

me r
Equating (3) and (4) gives:

2 2
rn 2
n = 1, 2, 3, ...
me ke
The smallest radius, when n = 1, is known
as the Bohr radius (a0).

a0 2
0.0529 nm
me ke
Quantisation of orbital radii leads to
quantisation of energy levels.
This can be seen by substituting rn=n2a0
into the previously obtained energy
equation to give the energy levels for
ke 2 1
En 2
2a0 n
Substituting in numerical values gives:
En 2 eV