Many students interpret the meaning of wave-particle duality in ways that diverge from the accepted view

Quantum and Nuclear


Many adopt a view that mixes classical and quantum ideas, and/or hold misconceptions rooted in a classical physics worldview. For example, some students believe that an electron is either a particle or a wave, depending on the speed at which it moves.

Resources to Address This

  • This teacher guidance introduces the wave-particle topic, describes appropriate outcomes, and provides suggestions for reading in preparation for the topic.

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  • This lesson outline compares the diffraction of electrons and light, introducing the idea of wave-particle duality. It links particle momentum to wavelength through the de Broglie equation.

    Students can practice using the de Broglie equation and learn how to interpret electron diffraction patterns.

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  • This lesson outline introduces the student to the photoelectric effect, from the basic phenomenon to an explanation of the effect including the concept of work function and the photoelectric equation. A range of worksheets and questions are provided.

    Use these ideas to discuss whether the electrons and photons are behaving in a wavelike or particle like way and whether the electron behaviour changes with its speed of ejection.

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  • Dutt, A., () Making the Transition from Classical to Quantum Physics, Teaching Science, 57 (4) 33-36.

  • Ayene, M., Kriek, J. and Damtie, B., () Wave-particle duality and uncertainty principle: Phenomenographic categories of description of tertiary physics students’ depictions Physical review special topics -physics education research, 7, 020113.

    DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.7.020113

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