How do atoms emit and absorb light?

Asked By: Durvasa Cassa | Last Updated: 16th February, 2020
Category: science chemistry
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The electron can gain the energy it needs by absorbing light. If the electron jumps from the second energy level down to the first energy level, it must give off some energy by emitting light. The atom absorbs or emits light in discrete packets called photons, and each photon has a definite energy.

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Considering this, why do atoms absorb and emit light of only certain energies?

An atom changes from a ground state to an excited state by taking on energy from its surroundings in a process called absorption. The electron absorbs the energy and jumps to a higher energy level. Because the atom can only absorb specific amounts of energy, only certain wavelengths of light will be absorbed.

Subsequently, question is, do atoms emit light? The frequencies of light that an atom can emit are dependent on states the electrons can be in. When excited, an electron moves to a higher energy level or orbital. When the electron falls back to its ground level the light is emitted.

Furthermore, what causes light to be emitted from atoms?

Light is the result of electrons moving between defined energy levels in an atom, called shells. When something excites an atom, such as a collision with another atom or a chemical electron, an electron may absorb the energy, boosting it up to a higher-level shell.

Why do sodium atoms emit light?

A sodium atom has 11 electrons, and because of the way they're stacked in orbitals one of those electrons is most likely to accept and emit energy. The energy packets that this electron is most likely to emit fall right around a wavelength of 590 nanometers. This wavelength corresponds to yellow light.

39 Related Question Answers Found

What happens when atoms absorb light?

The electron can gain the energy it needs by absorbing light. If the electron jumps from the second energy level down to the first energy level, it must give off some energy by emitting light. The atom absorbs or emits light in discrete packets called photons, and each photon has a definite energy.

Why do different elements absorb different wavelengths of light?

Explanation: The electrons in an atom can only occupy certain allowed energy levels. Conversely, an atomic electron can be promoted to a higher energy level when it absorbs a photon. Again because only certain transitions are allowed, only certain wavelengths can be absorbed.

Why do different atoms emit different colors of light?

Heating an atom excites its electrons and they jump to higher energy levels. When the electrons return to lower energy levels, they emit energy in the form of light. Every element has a different number of electrons and a different set of energy levels. Thus, each element emits its own set of colours.

Why is light absorbed?

When light is absorbed heat is generated. So the selective absorption of light by a particular material occurs because the frequency of the light wave matches the frequency at which electrons in the atoms of that material vibrate. Absorption depends on the state of an object's electron.

What happens when photons are absorbed?


A photon is basically, a quantum of electromagnetic energy. In the process of absorption, one or more photons can be absorbed by nuclear particles or atoms, and basically get destroyed. This also causes the absorbing particles to undergo transitions between their 'energy levels'.

What do absorption lines tell us?

As photons fly through the outermost layers of the stellar atmosphere, however, they may be absorbed by atoms or ions in those outer layers. The absorption lines produced by these outermost layers of the star tell us a lot about the chemical compositition, temperature, and other features of the star.

What is the interaction of light with matter?

Light can interact with matter in three ways: absorption, transmission, and reflection. 1. ABSORPTION – When a light wave with a identical frequency to an electron's natural frequency “impinges” upon an atom, the electrons will begin to vibrate as a result (almost like they are “set in motion”).

What is light made of?

Wave-Particle Duality of Light. Quantum theory tells us that both light and matter consists of tiny particles which have wavelike properties associated with them. Light is composed of particles called photons, and matter is composed of particles called electrons, protons, neutrons.

How are spectrums formed?

An emission spectrum is the line pattern formed when an element is excited and gives off energy. An absorption spectrum is formed when white light passes through a cool gas. The gas absorbs certain wavelengths of energy and allows others to pass through.

How is light formed?


Atoms make light in a three-step process: They start off in their stable "ground state" with electrons in their normal places. When they absorb energy, one or more electrons are kicked out farther from the nucleus into higher energy levels.

How is light produced?

Light is made up of little packets of energy called photons. Most of these photons are produced when the atoms in an object heat up. Heat “excites” the electrons inside the atoms and they gain extra energy. This extra energy is then released as a photon.

Do atoms lose energy when they emit light?

The electron loses energy when it emits light because the “light” is a photon, which is fundamental energy. The electron emits a photon, loses that energy, and drops to a lower energy level relative to the nucleus of the atom.

What happens when two photons collide?

If two photons head towards each other and they both turn into electron/anti-electron pairs at about the same time, then these particles can interact. Each anti-electron collides with an electron, they mutually annihilate and turn back into a new photon.

How can an atom emit a photon?

A photon is emitted when an atom moves from an excited state to its ground state or to a lower-energy excited state. When an atom loses energy, it falls from a higher energy state to a lower energy state. The frequency of the emitted light, observed in an element's line-emission spectrum, may be measured.

Are photons created?


When a particle and its corresponding antiparticle meet they can anihilate, producing a pair of photons. E=mc^2; matter, converted to energy. We can slam electrons directly into tungsten targets. About 1% of their kinetic energy will be converted into X-rays.

What exactly is a photon?

A photon is the smallest discrete amount or quantum of electromagnetic radiation. It is the basic unit of all light. Photons are always in motion and, in a vacuum, travel at a constant speed to all observers of 2.998 x 108 m/s.

What color is infrared?

NASA interprets shortwave IR, i.e. close to deep red, as visible red, near-IR to green and visible green to blue in the image below. And the shortwave infrared, near infrared, and green light interpretation of the same scene is below.