Students may visualise the electron as some sort of particle; only a small number may think of the electron as a wave

Quantum and Nuclear


Resources to Address This

  • Teaching guidance is provided about the of wavelike behaviour being associated with electrons through the Complementary principle. Use the guidance to help start a discussion about whether there are separate particle or waves or whether behaviour is more complex than this.

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  • A practical activity should be used to show diffraction of electrons in an electron diffraction tube. The resulting electrons diffraction patterns can be compared to the diffraction of light through a grating, showing wavelike behaviour. The energy of the electrons can be varied to show how this effects the diffraction pattern, introducing the idea of a de Broglie wavelength.

    A video is also provided to explain how the electron diffraction tube is set up and operated to give clear results.

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  • Compare the diffraction of electrons and light and introduce the idea of wave-particle duality based on this lesson outline. Momentum and wavelength should be carefully linked through the de Broglie equation.

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

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  • 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.

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  • 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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  • 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.

  • Petri, J. & Niedderer, H., () A learning pathway in high‐school level quantum atomic physics, International Journal of Science Education, 20 (9) 1075-1088.

    DOI: 10.1080/0950069980200905

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

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