Davisson-Germer Experiment

The Davisson-Germer experiment demonstrated the wave nature of the electron, confirming the earlier hypothesis of deBroglie. Putting wave-particle duality on a firm experimental footing, it represented a major step forward in the development of quantum mechanics. The Bragg law for diffraction had been applied to x-ray diffraction, but this was the first application to particle waves.

Davisson and Germer designed and built a vacuum apparatus for the purpose of measuring the energies of electrons scattered from a metal surface. Electrons from a heated filament were accelerated by a voltage and allowed to strike the surface of nickel metal.

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Davisson Germer Experiment

The electron beam was directed at the nickel target, which could be rotated to observe angular dependence of the scattered electrons. Their electron detector (called a Faraday box) was mounted on an arc so that it could be rotated to observe electrons at different angles. It was a great surprise to them to find that at certain angles there was a peak in the intensity of the scattered electron beam. This peak indicated wave behavior for the electrons, and could be interpreted by the Bragg law to give values for the lattice spacing in the nickel crystal.

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