A Brief History Of Compton Effect

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What Is The Compton Effect?

The Compton Effect is merely a consequence of a collision between a high energy photon and a target (matter), generally an electron. As a result of this collision, there is a reduction in the energy of the photon. Or I can say that the wavelength of the scattered photon is increased. This phenomenon is also known as Compton scattering. 

Schematic Diagram of Compton’s Experiment
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Compton Effect is a perfect example of an inelastic collision because due to the shift in the wavelength of the photon, the initial kinetic energy of the photon is not the same as the final kinetic energy of the photon. And the amount by which the wavelength of the photon changes is known as Compton shift.
See also, Top 6 Different Types of Energy with Their Examples (All New)

Who Discovered Compton Effect?

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

As the name suggests, this effect was discovered by an American physicist named Arthur Holly Compton (September 10, 1892 – March 15, 1962) at Washington University in 1923.

Four years after his discovery, in the year 1927; Arthur Compton was awarded his Nobel prize in physics. His discovery of Compton shift was later verified by one of his graduate Chinese student named Wu Youxun.

Significance Of Compton Effect

According to the classical view of Compton Scattering or Classical Wave Theory, Electromagnetic Radiation scattered by charged particles cannot explain any type of shift in wavelength or frequency. Compton effect demonstrated that light cannot be explained purely as a wave phenomenon. In simple terms, the Compton Effect shows the particle nature of light.

Credit: hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu

Compton Scattering not only confirmed the law of conservation of energy which was verified by Photoelectric Effect but also explained the law of conservation of Linear Momentum. Although, it was Max Planck and Albert Einstein who hypothesized that light could behave as both a wave or particle (Dual Nature). But, it was Arthur Compton who proved that this was possible.
See also, Failure Of Classical Physics

Applications Of Compton Scattering

It’s been almost a century since the discovery of the Compton Effect. So, as a result, the application of Compton Scattering becomes wider and wider. Such that it has applications in almost all the fields of science like physics, chemistry, biology, etc. Compton Scattering has an application in Radiobiology and Radiation Therapy simply because of its ability to interact with high energy X- rays with the atoms of the living beings.
It can also be applied to explain the wave function of an electron in terms of momentum representation. Compton Scattering is also used in the field of Astronomy and Astrophysics, as it helps astronomers and astrophysicists to understand the evolution of the Black Hole. In the field of chemistry, Compton Scattering is used to understand the chemical bonds and structure of the scattered matter by analyzing its Compton Profile.

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I am a mechanical engineer by profession. Just because of my love for fundamental physics, I switched my career, and therefore I did my postgraduate degree in physics. Right now I am a loner (as ever) and a Physics blogger too. My sole future goal is to do a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, especially in the field of cosmology. Because in my view, every aspect of physics comes within the range of cosmology. And I love traveling, especially the Sole one.

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