Max Planck, German Physicist Famous For Quantum Radiation. Having formulated quantum theory, Max Planck is best known for black body radiation and Planck constant. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, 1918.
Max Planck’s equation, relating quantum energy to frequency, is the basis of quantum theory. His work on the laws of thermodynamics and black-body radiation led him to abandon the classical notion of the dynamic principles of energy. Instead, he formulated the quantum energy which assumes that energy changes takes place in distinct packages he referred to as “quanta,” which cannot be subdivided.
German Physicist Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck or Max Planck (1858-1947), was born in Kiel, Germany, into an academic family. His father was professor of constitutional law and both his grandfather and great-grandfather were professors of theology. At the age of nine, he moved to Munich where he studied; he later went to Berlin.
Theories of Dynamics Prior Black Bodies
Almost at the end of 19th-century scientists were searching for an answer after the Newtonian Theory that describes all of nature. Divided in their thoughts, one camp studied electrodynamics, the relationship between mechanics and electricity. The other camp looked into thermodynamics and its two basic laws: the first law recognized that energy could not be made or destroyed, but always conserved; the second law was drawn from an understanding that heat won’t pass from a colder to a hotter body.
The study of thermodynamics was based on the assumption that matter was composed of particles. However, atoms hadn’t been discovered that time. Instead, the conventional view was that matter was continuous, and not made up of distinct building blocks.
Ludwig Boltzmann offered an explanation in terms of thermodynamics saying that the energy contained in a system is a collective result of tiny particles’ motion. He believed that the second law only worked if one adds up the energy associated with these tiny particles.
Planck was among Boltzmann’s detractors. In the 1890s, although still sceptical, Planck pursued more experiments as he began to see that the atomic hypothesis had the potential of unifying many different physical and chemical phenomena.
Planck’s Studies – From Black-Bodies to Quanta
To find answers, Planck and colleagues in support of him, looked to James Clerk Maxwell’s theories of electrodynamics but were unsuccessful. Instead, something new emerged as they turned to the idea of black-body radiation. Theoretically, a black-body is an object that absorbs all the radiation that hits it and since it reflects nothing, it will be black, however, it will still radiate heat itself.
Several physicists investigated the spectral distribution of the radiation. Somehow, Planck rejected them. In 1899, he produced a new version that incorporated some of Boltzmann’s ideas, referred to as the Wien-Planck law. At this point, Planck felt that the law agreed with experimental data and with theoretical basis.
Planck was still unsuccessful as tests showed that his theory did not work for low frequency radiation. More experiments were performed.
Birth of Quantum Theory – Planck Focuses on Quanta
Out of desperation, few months later, Planck renounced classical physics in favour of quanta in which he introduced what he called “energy elements” or quanta. On Decemeber 14, 1900, he announced his Quantum Theory and presented his findings to the German Physical Society, stating that energy was “made up of a completely determinate number of finite equal parts, and used the constant of nature – h = 6.55 x 10-²7 (erg sec).”
Quantum Theory was born.
Max Planck’s Legacy
German theoretical physicist Max Planck gave the world his Planck’s radiation law and Planck’s constant, which indicates wave and particle behaviour on the atomic scale. His equation, relating the quantum energy to frequency, is the basic of quantum theory, which is highly significant for the new era after his time. His acquaintances included Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Marie Curie, and James Clark Maxwell. Bohr and Planck were central figures in the quantum theory in early 20th century scientific development.