Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2012

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Alina Gearba

Advisor Department

Physics and Astronomy


The photoionization of atoms is still an emerging field with a foundation in laboratories and journals, yet much in the field is unknown. Photoionization is the phenomenon of an incident photon on a gaseous atom causing the ejection of an electron, and therefore, the atom becomes an ion. The photoelectric effect is a similar but broader term dealing with atoms in all forms: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. The photoelectric effect causes a current whenever light with a certain wavelength is shined on a metal. The wavelength that is needed to eject an electron is dependent on the atom(s) involved and the state that atom is in. The photons will free electrons, which can be used to power devices. Examples can be seen in photocells and solar cells [1]. Photocells can detect light through the photoelectric effect by producing a current. They are common in photodiodes, photomultiplier tubes, and night vision devices. Solar cells convert light into electrical energy and can be seen in solar powered calculators, cars, lights, and other solar powered devices.