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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Moseley's law and calculation of K-alpha X-ray emission lines

Moseley's law and calculation of K-alpha X-ray emission lines

Niels Bohr said in 1962, "You see actually the Rutherford work [the nuclear atom] was not taken seriously. We cannot understand today, but it was not taken seriously at all. There was no mention of it any place. The great change came from Moseley."
In 1913 Henry Moseley found an empirical relationship between the strongest X-ray line emitted by atoms under electron bombardment (then known as the K-alpha line), and their atomic number Z. Moseley's empiric formula was found to be derivable from Rydberg and Bohr's formula (Moseley actually mentions only Ernest Rutherford and Antonius Van den Broek in terms of models). The two additional assumptions that [1] this X-ray line came from a transition between energy levels with quantum numbers 1 and 2, and [2], that the atomic number Z when used in the formula for atoms heavier than hydrogen, should be diminished by 1, to (Z-1)².
Moseley wrote to Bohr, puzzled about his results, but Bohr was not able to help. At that time, he thought that the postulated innermost "K" shell of electrons should have at least four electrons, not the two which would have neatly explained the result. So Moseley published his results without a theoretical explanation.
Later, people realized that the effect was caused by charge screening, with an inner shell containing only 2 electrons. In the experiment, one of the innermost electrons in the atom is knocked out, leaving a vacancy in the lowest Bohr orbit, which contains a single remaining electron. This vacancy is then filled by an electron from the next orbit, which has n=2. But the n=2 electrons see an effective charge of Z-1, which is the value appropriate for the charge of the nucleus, when a single electron remains in the lowest Bohr orbit to screen the nuclear charge +Z, and lower it by -1 (due to the electron's negative charge screening the nuclear positive charge). The energy gained by an electron dropping from the second shell to the first gives Moseley's law for K-alpha lines:
E= h\nu = E_i-E_f=R_E (Z-1)^2 \left( \frac{1}{1^2} - \frac{1}{2^2} \right) \,
or
f = \nu = R_v \left( \frac{3}{4}\right) (Z-1)^2 = (2.46 \times 10^{15} \operatorname{Hz})(Z-1)^2.
Here, Rv = RE/h is the Rydberg constant, in terms of frequency equal to 3.28 x 1015 Hz. For values of Z between 11 and 31 this latter relationship had been empirically derived by Moseley, in a simple (linear) plot of the square root of X-ray frequency against atomic number (however, for silver, Z = 47, the experimentally obtained screening term should be replaced by 0.4). Notwithstanding its restricted validity[3] did Moseley's law not only establish the objective meaning of atomic number (see Henry Moseley for detail) but, as Bohr noted, it also did more than the Rydberg derivation to establish the validity of the Rutherford/Van den Broek/Bohr nuclear model of the atom, with atomic number as nuclear charge.
The K-alpha line of Moseley's time is now known to be a pair of close lines, written as (Kα1 and Kα2) in Siegbahn notation.

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