AQA GCSE Physics

Revision Notes

6.2.6 EM Waves & Atoms

EM Waves & Atoms

  • Atoms can interact with electromagnetic (EM) waves in one of two ways, they can be:
    • Absorbed
    • Emitted
  • When an EM wave hits an atom, it can be absorbed by one of the electrons giving it energy
    • This causes the electron to move up to a higher energy level
  • If an electron moves down to a lower energy level it will emit an EM wave in the process
    • In this way, atoms can absorb and emit electromagnetic waves over a wide range of frequencies

EM-waves-&-atoms, IGCSE & GCSE Physics revision notes

The electrons orbiting atoms can absorb and emit EM waves by moving between different energy levels

  • The energies associated with electron transitions tend to be in the visible and ultraviolet range (and sometimes X-rays)
  • Higher energies (ie. gamma rays) can only be achieved when EM waves interact with the nucleus
    • The nucleus of an atom can absorb and emit EM waves in a similar way to electrons

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