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De Broglie Equation

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The wave nature of light was the only aspect that was considered until Neil Bohr’s model. Later, however, Max Planck in his explanation of quantum theory hypothesized that light is made of very minute pockets of energy which are in turn made of photons or quanta. It was then considered that light has a particle nature and every packet of light always emits a certain fixed amount of energy. 

By this, the energy of photons can be expressed as:

E = hf = h * c/λ

Here, h is Plank’s constant

F refers to the frequency of the waves

Λ implies the wavelength of the pockets

Therefore, this basically insinuates that light has both the properties of particle duality as well as wave. 

Louis de Broglie was a student of Bohr, who then formulated his own hypothesis of wave-particle duality, drawn from this understanding of light. Later on, when this hypothesis was proven true, it became a very important concept in particle physics. 

What is the De Broglie Equation?

Quantum mechanics assumes matter to be both like a wave as well as a particle at the sub-atomic level. The De Broglie equation states that every particle that moves can sometimes act as a wave, and sometimes as a particle. The wave which is associated with the particles that are moving are known as the matter-wave, and also as the De Broglie wave. The wavelength is known as the de Broglie wavelength. 

For an electron, de Broglie wavelength equation is:       


λ = \[\frac{h}{mv}\]

Here, λ points to the wave of the electron in question

M is the mass of the electron

V is the velocity of the electron

Mv is the momentum that is formed as a result

It was found out that this equation works and applies to every form of matter in the universe, i.e, Everything in this universe, from living beings to inanimate objects, all have wave particle duality. 

Significance of De Broglie Equation

De Broglie says that all the objects that are in motion have a particle nature. However, if we look at a moving ball or a moving car, they don’t seem to have particle nature. To make this clear, De Broglie derived the wavelengths of electrons and a cricket ball. Now, let’s understand how he did this.  

De Broglie Wavelength 

1. De Broglie Wavelength for a Cricket Ball

Let’s say,Mass of the ball  = 150 g (150 x 10⁻³ kg),

Velocity = 35 m/s, 

and  h = 6.626 x 10⁻³⁴ Js

Now, putting these values in the equation 

λ = \[\frac{h}{mv}\]

λ = (6.626 * 10 to power of -34)/ (150 * 10 to power of -3 *35) 

This yields

λBALL = 1.2621 x 10 to the power of -34 m,

Which is 1.2621 x 10 to the power of -24 Å.

We know that Å is a very small unit, and therefore the value is in the power of 10−24−24^{-24}, which is a very small value. From here, we see that the moving cricket ball is a particle.

Now, the question arises if this ball has a wave nature or not. Your answer will be a big no because the value of λBALL is immeasurable. This proves that de Broglie’s theory of wave-particle duality is valid for the moving objects ‘up to’ the size (not equal to the size) of the electrons.

De Broglie Wavelength for an Electron

We know that me  = 9.1 x 10 to power of -31 kg

and ve = 218 x 10 to power of -6 m/s

Now, putting these values in the equation  λ = h/mv, which yields λ = 3.2 Å. 

This value is measurable. Therefore, we can say that electrons have wave-particle duality. Thus all the big objects have a wave nature and microscopic objects like electrons have wave-particle nature.

E  = hν  = \[\frac{hc}{\lambda }\]

The Conclusion of De Broglie Hypothesis

From de Broglie equation for a material particle, i.e.,  

λ = \[\frac{h}{p}\]or \[\frac{h}{mv}\], we conclude the following:

i. If v = 0, then λ = ∞, and

If v = ∞, then λ = 0

It means that waves are associated with the moving material particles only. This implies these waves are independent of their charge. 

Last updated date: 03rd Jun 2023
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FAQs on De Broglie Equation

1.The De Broglie hypothesis was confirmed through which means?

De Broglie had not proved the validity of his hypothesis on his own, it was merely a hypothetical assumption before it was tested out and consequently, it was found that all substances in the universe have wave-particle duality. A number of experiments were conducted with Fresnel diffraction as well as a specular reflection of neutral atoms. These experiments proved the validity of De Broglie’s statements and made his hypothesis come true. These experiments were conducted by some of his students. 

2.What exactly does the De Broglie equation apply to?

In very broad terms, this applies to pretty much everything in the tangible universe. This means that people, non-living things, trees and animals, all of these come under the purview of the hypothesis. Any particle of any substance that has matter and has linear momentum also is a wave. The wavelength will be inversely related to the magnitude of the linear momentum of the particle. Therefore, everything in the universe that has matter, is applicable to fit under the De Broglie equation. 

3.Is it possible that a single photon also has a wavelength?

When De Broglie had proposed his hypothesis, he derived from the work of Planck that light is made up of small pockets that have a certain energy, known as photons. For his own hypothesis, he said that all things in the universe that have to matter have wave-particle duality, and therefore, wavelength. This extends to light as well, since it was proved that light is made up of matter (photons). Hence, it is true that even a single photon has a wavelength. 

4.Are there any practical applications of the De Broglie equation?

It would be wrong to say that people use this equation in their everyday lives, because they do not, not in the literal sense at least. However, practical applications do not only refer to whether they can tangibly be used by everyone. The truth of the De Broglie equation lies in the fact that we, as human beings, also are made of matter and thus we also have wave-particle duality. All the things we work with have wave-particle duality. 

5.Does the De Broglie equation apply to an electron?

Yes, this equation is applicable for every single moving body in the universe, down to the smallest subatomic levels. Just how light particles like photons have their own wavelengths, it is also true for an electron. The equation treats electrons as both waves as well as particles, only then will it have wave-particle duality. For every electron of every atom of every element, this stands true and using the equation mentioned, the wavelength of an electron can also be calculated.  

6.Derive the relation between De Broglie wavelength and temperature.

We know that the average KE of a particle is:

                       K = 3/2 kbT

Where kb is Boltzmann’s constant, and

T   = temperature in Kelvin

The kinetic energy of a particle is  ½ mv²

The momentum of a particle, p = mv = √2mK

= √2m(3/2)KbT = √2mKbT 

de Broglie wavelength, λ = h/p = h√2mkbT 

7.If an electron behaves like a wave, what should determine its wavelength and frequency?

Momentum and energy determine the wavelength and frequency of an electron.

8. Find λ associated with an H2 of mass 3 a.m.u moving with a velocity of 4 km/s.

Here,  v = 4 x 10³ m/s 

Mass of hydrogen = 3 a.m.u = 3 x 1.67 x 10⁻²⁷kg = 5 x 10⁻²⁷kg    

On putting these values in the equation λ = h/mv we get

λ = (6.626 x 10⁻³⁴)/(4 x 10³ x 5 x 10⁻²⁷) = 3 x 10⁻¹¹ m.

9. If the KE of an electron increases by 21%, find the percentage change in its De Broglie wavelength.

We know that  λ = h/√2mK

So,  λi = h/√(2m x 100) , and λf = h/√(2m x 121)

% change in λ is:

Change in wavelength/Original x 100 = (λfi - λf)/λi = ((h/√2m)(1/10 - 1/21))/(h/√2m)(1/10) 

On solving, we get

% change in λ = 5.238 %