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What happens when you turn the light on?


The Photoelectric Effect Virtual Lab was designed with the intent that students and teachers might explore one of the most important, non-classical, behaviors of light - the photoelectric effect.  The ability of light, under the right conditions, to liberate electrons from the surface of metals, was one of the most profound mysteries of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  In this Virtual Lab, students will graphically explore the behavior of light with metals.

Students will download an Excel spreadsheet that has been designed to allow many choices including the characteristics of the light, the type of metal, and the type of graph that is desired.  No experience with Excel, spreadsheets, or the physics of the photoelectric effect is required.  The local computer which downloads the program must have Excel installed, otherwise the program will not run.  In addition, users will be asked whether they wish to "enable macros" or not.  The answer to this question NEEDS TO BE YES, since the Virtual Lab code is actually recorded in macros.  These macros translate user screen choices into spreadsheet activities like the generation of data and the presentation of graphs.

Teachers should consult the "Teachers' Page" to get ideas about the photoelectric effect, a sample lesson plan, and some background information that guided the development of the software.

Students are provided, on the "Students' Page," information regarding the history of the photoelectric effect, some current applications of the effect, and some suggestions about getting started.  Teachers are encouraged to review these pages as well.

Feedback regarding the successes and difficulties of using this utility is encouraged and welcome.  Please send your comments to Tim Brennan.