Intensity or Frequency...

Good evening all!

This is probably a silly question but please bare with me.

Relating to the topic of the Photoelectric effect (to which I find absolutely fascinating…)

What is it exactly that kicks off an electron from a metal surface? Is it increasing the intensity of the incident light beam or perhaps increasing the frequency??

I under stand that it is photons that strike the surface of the metal but…I’m lost.

(BTW, this is not an MCAT question; or at least not to my knowledge. I just want to know so that I can make walking around sense of this whole concept)

So all you super smart peeps please chime in and help this fledgling scientist.


Julio -it’s not a silly question. It is, in fact, the question basic to the photoelectric effect experiment. If light is a particle, the intensity of the light should correspond to the number of electrons displaced, and the frequency should be immaterial. If it is a wave, the frequency varying should affect the number of electrons displaced. see here: one/p…

for a simplified description of the whole matter.

Thanks - was an interesting diversion this morning!


Intensity or Frequency? my wife had the same question just the other day… but under a completely different set of circumstances.

Take that diversion Kate429

…actually my first thought when I read the topic, gonnif! Only surprised it took you so long to get there


(that’s what she said)

Thank you for the comedic relief! My ochem lab reports were starting to make me crazy.