Max Planck

Quantization of Energy (Max Planck)

On December 14, 1900, Max Planck presented a theoretical explanation of the spectrum of radiation emitted by an object that glows. He argued that the walls of a glowing solid could be imagined to contain a series of resonators that oscillated at different frequencies. These resonators gain energy in the form of heat from the walls of the object and lose energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation. The energy of these resonators at any moment is proportional to the frequency with which they oscillate.

This idea was a logical extension of work that Heinrich Hertz had done on the origin of electromagnetic radiation. But the only way that Planck could get this model to fit the spectrum of light emitted by a glowing object was to introduce a revolutionary notion. To fit the observed spectrum, Planck had to assume that the energy of these oscillators could take on only a limited number of values. In other words, the spectrum of energies for these oscillators was no longer continuous. Because the number of values of the energy of these oscillators is limited, they are theoretically "countable." The energy of the oscillators in this system is therefore said to be quantized.  Planck introduced the notion of quantization to explain how light was emitted.


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