Atomic and Molecular Physics

Periodic Potential

What it shows:

Ball bearings simulate atoms in a lattice sitting at local potential minimums. Giving them energy excites the atoms and they oscillate about their equilibrium positions in these wells; only with large amounts of energy can they be truly dislocated.

How it works:

A piece of wood 100 × 25 × 2cm acts as the ‘potential’ structure of the lattice. The atoms, 3cm diameter ball bearings sit at the bottom of a cosine varying potential cut to about 10cm depth in the wood by a jig saw.The balls are held in the 2-dimensional...

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Collisional Broadening

What it shows:

Perturbation by colliding atoms in a high pressure gas result in the broadening of emission and absorption lines. This is clearly seen in the sodium D (589nm and 589.6nm) lines of a high pressure sodium lamp.

The broadening in frequency width is dependent upon the separation of the perturbing particles (Novotny 1973) by

∆ν ∝ r-n

With n=2 the broadening is due to the coulomb field of an ionized atom or electron; this is the linear Stark effect. With n=3 the interaction is between neutral atoms of the same type; this...

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Street Lamp Spectra

What it shows:

Unlike the continuous spectrum emitted by blackbody radiators, the light given off by atoms in a gaseous discharge is characterized by its discreet nature. Using street lamps for the light sources, bright atomic spectra of mercury or sodium are projected onto a screen.


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Fraunhofer Absorption

What it shows:

Sodium 'D' line absorption showing up as a black line in the yellow of a continuous spectrum. Good as a simulation of the sodium portion of the Fraunhoffer absorption spectrum caused by atoms in the solar atmosphere; it does not however, resolve the 5890/5896Å doublet.

How it works:

As in the Sun, which is a black body source surrounded by an atmosphere of cooler gas containing many heavy atoms including sodium, we can set up a black body spectrum using a slide projector, and provide a hot sodium 'atmosphere' using...

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Resonance Radiation/Absorption

What it shows:

For an electron to make a transition from one energy level to a higher one, it needs to absorb a photon who's energy is equal to the difference in the energy levels involved. When jumping back down, it will emit a photon of that same energy. These discrete energy separations are characteristic of the atom involved, and it's what provides an atom with its fingerprint line spectrum. Trying to induce a transition with a photon of different energy just doesn't work.

In this demonstration, light from a sodium source will be absorbed by sodium gas...

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