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Laboratory Report May 28, 2014 No.

Measuring Planks Constant h using
Photoelectric Effect
Matheus L. Lize
Universidade Federal Do Parana (UFPR)
We were able to test the Einstein theory of the photoelectric effect, where the maximum Kinetic
energy depends (linearly) on the frequency of the light and the surface material (Work Function), and
saw the wave-particle duality behave of the light. Using Mercury lamp, the light pass through a
diffraction grid that separate the spectrum, we determined the retarding Potential for each frequency, with
and without optical band lters. Using the lters we get a better agreement for the Planks constant
h = 3.776e
, with a reasonable accuracy ( 9% less then the real value).
1. Introduction
n 1886 and 1886 Hertz discovered that an
electric discharge between two electrodes
occurs more readily when there is ultravi-
olet light in one of the electrodes [1], at the
same time Leonard show that the light helps
to discharge of a metal by making electrons
escape from the metal plate. The ejection of
electrons from a surface by the light is called
the photoelectric effect. In 1905 A. Einstein
in his miracle year wrote 3 amazing papers
where one of then was to explain the photo-
electric effect. Einstein took the Planks idea
that radiation was quantized (Ultraviolet catas-
trophe) and Leonard experiment and proposed
that the energy of the electron eject was propor-
tional to the energy of the light with a constant
(work function) that varies with different types
of metal.
2. Theory
The experimental facts of the photoelectric ef-
fect were appositive from that classical wave
description of light from Maxwell[1] :
From the wave theory the intensity of the
light is proportional to Electric Field E,
and the force that acts on the electron is
eE, so the kinetic energy should be pro-
portion to the light intensity, but this is
not what the experiment shows. K
does not depend of the light intensity.
The electron should be ejected from the
surface if you apply the right amount of
intensity (energy), but the fact is, that for
each metal there is a characteristic fre-
quency where below that the metal will
not emit any electron.
The classical view predicts that the elec-
tron will absorb energy from the light
bean until have enough energy and es-
cape from the surface, except this time
(absorb and escape) does not agree with
the experiment, where seems that the
electron is emitted right a way when the
light arrives in the metal surface.
With all this in mind Einstein wrote a pa-
per (On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the
Production and Transformation of Light) [2],
to explain the photoelectric effect. The maxi-
mum Kinetic energy depends on the frequency
of the light and the surface material. Einstein
assumed the energy, that the electron absorb,
from the photon is related by:
E = h (1)
By conservation of energy the maximum
kinetic energy that the electron will have is
= h (2)
Laboratory Report May 28, 2014 No. 1
Where is called the work function, is the
energy that the electron need to scape the sur-
face of metal, its depending of the valence
band and atomic arrangement of the metal.
This simple idea can explain the facts that (1)
the K
does not depend on the intensity, how-
ever depend on the frequency of the light, (2) if
the electron does not have the E() larger that
the work function will not scape, and (3)the
light come in small parts of energy (photons),
when this photons have the right energy hit
the electron, the electron will scape the surface.
The photoelectric theory introduces the
wave-particle duality concept that, the light
some times behaves as wave or particle depend-
ing on the experiment,in another way how you
interfere with light.
3. Experimental Setup
3.1. Schematic
Figure 1: Schematic setup for the experiment, using a
Mercury Lamp passing the grid that are able
to separate the frequencies in space, and study
each one in the photoelectron detector.
3.2. Apparatus Description
The setup can be seen on the Figure ??, and
it consist of monochromatic light of mercury
lamp, where this light will pass through a
diffraction grid that will separate the spectrum
of Mercury in different wavelengths, can be
seen at Table ?? [3].
Color frequency (10
Hz) Wavelengths (nm)
Yellow 518.62 2 578.00 2
Green 548.99 2 546.07 2
Blue 687.85 2 435.83 2
Violet 740.85 2 404.65 2
UV 820.26 2 365.48 2
Table 1: The Mercury Lamp spectrum
Figure 2: Schematic for the Photoelectron Detector [4]
Then we add the photoelectron detector
in front of the light that pass the grid with-
out diffract. After the light is focalized in the
center of the photoelectron detector, we can
turn the detector clockwise or anti clockwise
to select each part (frequency) of the spectrum
The inside the photoelectron detector, Fig-
ure ??, there is a photocell that is the metal that
will lose electrons (photoelectron effect) and a
photoelectron plate that will ketch the elec-
tron, those electrons will create a current, but if
you apply enough voltage so that all electrons
dont arrive at the photoelectron detector, thus
will not generate current,this voltage is called
stopped voltage or retarding potential.
To get the Planks from Equation ??, we mea-
sured the Retarding Potential (V
) for each fre-
quency (Table ?? ). The Retarding potential
is the minimum potential to stop the electron
from scape the surface, thus the energy asso-
ciate with the electron is eVr. The Equation ??
= h (3)
Laboratory Report May 28, 2014 No. 1
Hz) Ret.Potencial(eV) (with Filter)
518.65 2 0.837 0.02 (0.585)
548.99 2 0.879 0.02 (0.675)
687.85 2 1.373 0.02
740.85 2 1.471 0.02
820.26 2 1.637 0.02
Table 2: The measurement of the Retarding potential
(Vo) for each frequency. For the frequencies
518.5 and 548.99 it was added a yellow and
green lter respectively.
Then we have a linear relationship between
the stopping potential V
and the frequency
(). The measurement of the retarding poten-
tial oscillated over time so this insert an error in
the voltage around 0.02 eV. The equipment that
we used gave us directly the energy associated
with the Retarding Potential(eV
In the rst set of measurements we didnt
use any type of lter, we just select the fre-
quency by the color. The plot V
vs. (Figure
??) gave us a linear dependence as we expect
from the Equation ?? , thus the angular coef-
cient provided was 2.8162e
eVs 0.095e
Thus h = 2.8162e
this result is 32% less
than the expected value [4] for h = 4.14e
In the second time we used two lters, a
yellow and a green. The Retarding Potential
decrees about 30% for the rst two measure-
ment (Table ??). Than the Linear t provide us
a linear coefcient h = 3.776e
it is 9% less than the real value. In the same
equation we can nd the Work Function for the
photocell. The Equation ?? says that the con-
stant term is the Work Function, from the linear
t with lter we found = 1.354eV 0.072.
Now that we have the equation we can nd the
cutoff frequency
by putting the k
= 0 in
Equation ?? we have


where we found
= 358e
Hz 3.1e
Figure 3: The graph show that the Retarding Potential
has a linear dependence in the frequency and
the slope of this linear t is the Planks con-
The measurement with lter was noticeably
better than with no lter, the reason is in the
the way we separated the frequencies is not
perfect, thats why when we add the lter the
Stopping Potential dropped almost 30%. With
the lter the energy due the frequency, is more
precisely the one we assumed (Table ??) that
was the true value, where we used to make the
The astonishing thing of this experiment is that
we could observer the two types of behave
of the wave-particle duality, where when the
light passed through the grid acts like wave
(interference and diffraction) and when it hit
the metal surface the photoelectric effect oc-
curs, the light act like a particle. Because of
the limitation of the experiment apparatus we
werent able to directly observe some fact of
the photoelectric effect. We used kind of black
box, we knew how it works but we couldnt
change the current and set by ourselves the
stop potential. Instead we assumed that the
photoelectron detector does work as we ex-
pected, thus we were able to get the Planks
constant h = 3.776e

15 0.108e

15eVs, with
a reasonable accuracy ( 9% less then the real
value). I think the main reason for this shift is
Laboratory Report May 28, 2014 No. 1
because we didnt have lters for the other col-
ors, because as we add the lter, the Retarding
Potential dropped signicantly, if we keep do-
ing this for the other frequencies all values will
(probably) drop to, so the slop of the t will in-
crease, therefore the Planks constant will rise,
getting close to the existent value.
[1] R. Eisberg and R. Resnick. Quantum
Physics of Atoms,Molecules, Solids, Nuclei,
and Particles. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,
[2] A. Einstein. Annalen der Physik. 132, 1905.
[3] J. Varalda. UFPR Roteiro De Laboratorio de
Fisica Moderna, o Efeito Fotoelectrico. 2014
[4] The Physics Hypertextbook.