Lesson: Electron Energy Level Transitions High School Physics


In this lesson, we will learn how to calculate the energy of the photon that is absorbed or released when an electron transitions from one atomic energy level to another.



Students will be able to

  • recall that the energy level an electron is in is denoted by the principal quantum number, 𝑛,
  • recall that the lowest possible value for 𝑛 is 1 and that this represents the most strongly bound electrons,
  • recall that the 𝑛=1 state is called the ground state,
  • recall that 𝑛 increases for higher energy levels and that the greater the value of 𝑛, the less strongly bound an electron is,
  • recall that the term electron energy level transition refers to an electron moving between two energy levels,
  • calculate the energy difference between two energy levels given the binding energy of each energy level,
  • calculate the frequency or wavelength of the emitted or absorbed photon based on the energy levels that an electron transitions between (using 𝐸=β„Žπ‘“),
  • recall that certain groups of transitions have certain names (e.g., Lyman series, Balmer series, Paschen series).


Students should already be familiar with

  • the idea that electrons in atoms occupy discrete energy levels,
  • the idea that when an electron moves from a higher energy level to a lower energy level, a photon is emitted,
  • the idea that an electron can move from a lower energy level to a higher energy level by absorbing a photon,
  • the electron volt (eV) as a unit of energy,
  • how to convert between joules (J) and electron volts (eV).


Students will not cover

  • the other quantum numbers (𝑙, π‘šοˆ, 𝑠),
  • subshells,
  • the energy level configuration for any element other than hydrogen,
  • mean excited state lifetimes,
  • the difference between stimulated and spontaneous emissions of photons,
  • the quantum mechanical origins of discrete energy levels.




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