Many students interpret wave-particle duality to mean that electrons are either a particle or a wave depending on other factors

Quantum and Nuclear


In studies, students demonstrated little understanding of the wave nature of electrons and thought that the superposition of states means a superposition of the wave and particle behaviours of an object.

Resources to Address This

  • Use this lesson-based activity to introduce the idea that electrons can be represented as standing waves. The materials refresh students’ understanding of Melde’s experiment, setting up a standing wave in a string under tension and then go on to apply this idea to electrons using a wire loop, modelling electron orbits.

    The resource also provides a set of calculations based on the information, linking to the de Broglie equation.

    View Resource
  • A lesson outline which can be used to compare the diffraction of electrons and light to introduce the idea of wave-particle duality. Particle momentum is linked to wavelength through the de Broglie equation.

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

    Use the lesson to explain the difference between the diagrams sometimes used to represent photons or electrons (wavy lines) to their actual straight-line paths.

    View Resource


  • R. V. Olsen., () Introducing quantum mechanics in the upper secondary school: a study in Norway, International Journal of Science Education, 24 (6) 565-574.

    DOI: 10.1080/09500690110073982

  • Greca, I. M. and Freire Jr., O., () Does an Emphasis on the Concept of Quantum States Enhance Students' Understanding of Quantum Mechanics? Science & Education, 12, 541-557.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1025385609694

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