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APRIL 1912.

XLII. Ionization by Moving Electrified Particles.

By Sir J. J. THOMSOS*.

T H Efollowing
theory developed in this
assumptions : - -
paper is based on the

1. Cathode or positive rays when they pass through an

atom repel or attract the corpuscles in it and thereby
give to them kinetic energy.
2. When the energy imparted to a corpnsole is greater
than a certain definite value--the value required to
ionize the atom--a corpuscle escapes from the atom,
and a free corpuscle and positively charged at~om are
We must first find under what circumstances a cathode
ray moving with a given velocity will lose when it passes by
a corpuscle a quantity of energy greater than the amount
required to ionize an atom.
In my ' Conduction of Electricity through Gases' it is
shown that when a body with a charge E1 in electrostatic
units and mass Mt is projected with a velocity V towards a
body with a charge E2 and mass Ms at rest, the energy Q
transferred to the latter is given by the equatioa
4M1M2 - .
Q - (Ml+M~)~'rsm t~,
* Communicated by the Author.
Phil. Mag. S. 6. Vol. 23. 1%. 136. April 1912. 2H
450 Sir J. J. Thomson on [oni-ation
where T is the kinetic energy of the first particle, and
sin 2 8 =
d~V4 l' MIM ~ ~ '

where d is the length of the perpendicular from the second

particle on the direction of projection of the first.
In the case of an encounter between a cathode lay and a
corpuscle, M1---M~ and e---E, and the equation becomes
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Q = T s i n ~8, sin~ 8 =
In this ease 0 is the angle through which the cathode ray
is deflected. Thus

1+ T2
, or --1 ,~. (1)

Thus if the corpuscle requires an amount of energy W to

escape from the atom, then, in order that the a~om should be
ionized by the cathode particle, d must not be greater than
the value given by (1) when W is written ibr Q.
If n is the number of corpuscles in ttle atoms in unit-
volume of the gas, the number o]~ collisions for which d is
not greater than the value given by equation (1) made per
cm. by a corpuscle moving through the gas is nvd: or

~ T r4e ( wT - - t )

this is a maximum when T - 2 W .

When, as in the case of fl rays or cathode particles in a
vacuum-tube, T is large compared with W, the preceding
expression reduces to
so that the number of ions produced per cm. by a cathode
particle on this theory varies as 1/T.
Mr. Glasson (Phil. Mug. Oct. 1911) has shown that the
number of ions made per cenfimetre by a cathode ray varies
approximately inversely as the kinetic energy of the. moving
partlcle, so that his results are in aecordancewith this theory,
in which it is to be remarked we have neglected the secon-
dary ionization produced by the corpuscles expelled with
by Mocb~y Elect@~edParticles. 451
energy greater than W from the atom by the primary rays.
]'he photographs taken by Mr. C. T. R. Wilson of the drops
of water deposited on t~hc ions produced by cathode rays
show that this secondary ionization is not considerable.
For cathode rays with a velocity of 4"7x 10 ~ cm./sec.
Glasson found that 1"5 pairs of ions were made per cm. of
path in air at the pressure of 1 nnn. of mercm'y, so that at
atmospheric pressure 1140 pairs of ions would be produced
per cm.
To compare this with the value given by our formula we
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require to know the value of W, the energy required to ionize

an atom of the gas through which the ray is passing. This
is a quantity to which very different values have been
assigned by different observers, ranging in the case of air
from that due to a fall of the atomic charge through 2 volts,
found by H. A. Wilson, to that due to a fall through 175,
the value given by Rutherford. The production of secondary
positive rays by uncharged hydrogen molecules moving with
a velocity not greater than 1,4 x l0 s cm./sec, past corpuscles
at rest, shows that the energy required to io~ize a!i atom of
hydrogen must be less than |hat possessed by a co,'puacle
moving at a speed of 1,4 x 10~ cm,/sec, which is equivalent
to a fall through 5 volts. We shall take as the basis of our
calculations for air Townsend's estimate of 10 valts.
G]asson's rays moving with a velocity of 4"7 x 10 a cm./sec.
had ldnefc energy equivalent to a fall through 6000 volts:
6000 10 10~1~
hence if T = 300 e, W = ~0~0e, and e=4,7 x
n~re4-~ 1140 x WT,
if n is the number of corpuscles per c.e. of air ar atmospheric
pressure. This gives n=10"7:~ 10sD, the n~mber of mole-
cnles in the air ---2'7 x 1019. Hence on an average there are
about 40 corpuscles to the molecule. If the nmnber of
corpuscles in the atom were eqtlal to th.e atomic weight, this
number would have been abaut 31): hence, m~less the value
of W is very far out, we may conclude that the number of
corpuscles in an atom is not greater than 2 or 3 times the
atomic weight.
We shall proceed to the consideration of ionization by the
t3 particles from radium. Eve (Phil. Mag. Oct. 1911) found
that the /~ rays from radium produced 48 ions per era. of
path in air at atmospheric pressure; the velocity of these
rays is not given, but we oan test the formula by calculating
from it what the velocity of the rays should be. Since
Glasson's rays give 1140 ions per era., and Eve's only 48,
452 Sir J. J. Thomson on Ionization
the velocity of Eve's rays will be ~/1140/48, or 4"7 times
those oE Glasson's. As the latter rays had a velocity of
4"7 x 109, the velocity of Eve's rays would be 2"2• 101~
which is a very reasonable value for the velocity of the fl rays.
We have neglected the correction for the alteration of the
mass of the/~ rays with their velocity; this correction would
have the effect of reducing slightly the calculated velocity of
ne 4
the f~ rays. As the ionization in a gas is equal to ~-~,, and
as n is proportional to the atomic weight of the gas, the
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number of ions produced by a cathode ray of given velocity

moving through given gases will be proportional to the density
of the gas divided by W, the energy required to ionize an
atom of the gas. Hence W will vary as the density of the gas
divided by the ionization per cm. of patb. Kleeman (Prec.
Royal Soc. ]xxix. p. 220) gives the relative ionization in
different gases produced by/~ rays. From his values I have
calculated the relative values of Q for several gases :--
Ga.q . . H . C. N, O. S. CI. Br. I.
W . . . 1, 4"75, 5"26, 49, 3'6, 4"5, 5"4, 5"6.
Thus it would appear from this result that hydrogen is
much more easily ionized than any of the other substances
The deflexion which we have been considering of a rapidly
moving corpuscle by another corpuscle would not give rise
to much dissipation of energy by radiation. For the accele-
ration of one corpuscle is equal and opposite to that of the
other; hence the electric ibrce in one pulse will be equal and
opposite to that in the other, so that when the pulse due to
one overlaps that due to the other the energy will be small.
The study of the 'positive rays in a discharge-tube shows,
however, that sometimes a rapidly moving corpuscle is
stopped and remains firmly attached to the atom when it
collides with it. In collisions of this kind the energy of the
corpuscle will be radiated away, and they may be regarded
as the chief source of the RSntgen rays produced when
cathode particles fall upon matter. That collisions of this
kind occur is shown by the fact that atoms travelling with
great velocity through a perforated cathode, and uncharged
when they pass through the cathode, on passing through
ionized gas at rest sometimes attract a corpuscle and become
negatively charged. The conditions are the same as if the
atoms were at rest, and the corpuscle moving with the velocity
of the atom and colliding against it, the impact resulting in the
stoppage of the corpuscle and its imprisonment by the atom.
by Movb~j Electrified Particles. 453
Ionization by Positively Charged Particles.
In this case, as the mass of the moving particle is very
large compared with that of the corpuscle, M1 is large corn-
pared with M~, so that the equations
4MaM~ m 9 z0
q=(M~),xs,n , sin ~ 0 =
1 + ~- \.M~ + MJ
reduce to
Q 4TM~. 1
=-M~Sln 0, sin 2 0 =
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1+ E~e~
or if T' is the kinetic energy of a corpuscle moving with the
velocity of the positive particle,
Q = AT' sin g 0; sin g 0 = 4T~d.~,
1+ E~e~
or d~___( 4 T ~ ? 1)e2E~.

Thus the nmnber of ions made per centimetre of path by

the action of the positively charged particles on the negative
corpuscles is, when T' is large compared with W,
n~re2E 2
WT' 9
Thus when e = E the number of ions produced by the
positively electrified particle is the same as the number pro-
duced by a corpuscle moving with the same velocity. When,
as in the case of the a particles, E = 2 e , the ionization
produced by the ~ particle is four times that produced by a
corpuscle moving with the same velocity. We can test this
result by comparing the ionization due to the a particles
from radium O, which have an initi:~[ velocity of 2"06 x 10 ~
cm./sec., with that due to Glasson's cathode rays with the
velocity of 4"7 x 109 cm./sec. In consequence of the slower
velocity the a particles ought by our rule to make (4'7/2"06) e
or 5"4 times the number made by the cathode particles, and
in consequence of the double charge 4 times the number;
hence the a particle should make 4 • 5"4 or 21 times as many
as the cathode ray. As the cathode ray makes 1140 the
particle should make 23940 ions per centimetre ; the number
as measured by Geiger is 22500, the difference is not greater
than could be accounted for by errors in the experiments.
454: Sir J. J. Thomson on Ionlzatio~
In order that a positively charged particle may ioni2e a
gas at all T' must be greater than W/4 ; thus if we take W
to be represented b y 10 volts, T' must be at least 2"5 volts.
Thus T, if the positively charged particle were an atom of
hydrogen, must be 2"5 x 1700 or 4250 "colts; if it were a
molecule of hydrogen it would be 8500 volts, if an atom of
oxygen 68000 volt~. Thus in the case of the positive r~lys
produced in a vacuum-tube, unless the potential difference
between the terminals is very large, it will only be the atoms
and molecules of the lighter gas which can produce ionization
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in 1he ~ay we are considering,

According to this view it is the velocity of the positive
particle and not its energy which must exceed a critical
value before it can ionize a gas, and a knowledge of this
criticalvalue Would enable us to find the value of W. It
would I think be easier to determine W by expeEments on
positive particles than with negative ones; and I hope by
isolating by means of magnetic and electric deflexions posi-
tive rays of definite character and velocity, to get information
on this point.
In the preceding investigations we have supposed that the
corpuscles in the atom were free; the amount of energy com-
municated to a free corpuscle will not, however, differ appre-
ciably from that given to one heht bound by the forces
exerted on it byits neighbour, if the time of oscillation of the
corpuscle under these forces is large in comparison with the
time during which the threes due to the moving particle are
appreciable. This time will be of the order d/V, and when
the particles are moving with a velocity of l(F cm./sec, this
time will be of the order 10 -18 see., which is very small in
comparison with the time of any vibrations revealed by the
spectroscope. For very slow cathode rays or positively
charged particles, the influence of the forces inside the atom
might be appreciable and reduce the energy communicated
to t h e corpuscle. These forces Will in any case naturally
deflect the corpuscle on its way out of the atom, and make it
emerge in a different direction from that in which it started
after its encounter with the moving p:~rticle. We can easily
show that this direction makes an angle ~r/2-O with the
original direction of motion of the particle, so that when 0
is smull this direction is at right angles to the direction of
the primary rays.
Radiation produced by tlLe Recombination of Ions.
When a corpuscle is liberated from an atom or molecule,
a definite amount of work W is required, which is equal to
by Movbtg Electrified Particles. 455
the potential energy of the positively charged rcs!due and a
corpuscle at an infinite distance from it. I f the ~ork spent
on the corpuscle is greater than W, the corpuscle leaves the
atom with a finite amount of kinetic energy, but the state
of she positively charged ion and its potential energy ~ith
respect to a distant corpuscle is not affected. Consider now
what happens when this positive i~n and a corpuscle combine
and restore the atom or molecule to the state in which it
existed before ionization took place. Under their mutual
attraction the corpuscle and positively charged ion approach
each other and acquire kinetic energy. As the mass of the
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corpuscle is much tim smaller, the kinetic energy wiU be

almost entirely localized in the corpuscle. After the cor-
puscle has fallen back into the ion it will have an amount
of kinetic energy equal to W, if there has been no dissipation
of energy by radiation; befqre the atom is restored to the
state it was in before ionization, this energy must be got
rid of. This dispersal of the energy is accomplished by its
radiation, which takes place as lomg as its motion is being
accelerated. Thus from the time of commencement of the
recombination up to that when the atom has become mormal,
a stream of radiationis emitted from the system, constituting a
pulse, which may be a linear one, of electromagnetic radiation,
whose duration and energy depend only on the properties of
the atom or molecule. Hence the character of the radiation
emitted during the recombinatioR of the ions will be a series
of pulses, each pulse containing the same amount of energy,
and of such a character that if we were to analyse the electro-
magnetic disturbance by Fourier's theorem into a syttem of
harmonic vibrations, the distribution e[ energy among the
different periods would be the same fvr each pulse. In fact,
each of these pulses will form a unit or quantum, and the
total radiation will be built up of such units.
l~ow, what will be the natltre of this radiation? If we
resolve it up into light-vibrations, where will the maximum
energy be ? will it be far down in the infra-red or high up
in the ultra-violet ? This will depend on the energy required
to ionize a molecule. To fix our ideas let us suppose this is
represented by 10 volts, so that when the corpuscle regains
the atom or molecule it will be moving with the velocity
corresponding to the fall of the atomic charge through
10 volts. We may fairly compare the radiation it eml~ts
with that emitted l~y a corpuscle moving with this velocity
when it strikes against a molecule. If we suppose that the
radiation from hot bodies is due to the electric waves gene-
rated when corpuscles in thermal equilibrium with the body
456 Sir J. J. Thomson on Ionization
strike against the molecules of the body, the character of the
radiation emitted when the ions recombine will be comparable
with that from a body at such a temperature that ttle average
energy of one of its molecules is that due to the fall of the
atomic charge through tO volts. At the temperature 0 ~ C.
the average energy or a molecule of a ~as is that due to the
fall of the atomic charge through 1/30 of a volt, which is
1/300 part of the energy of our corpuscles; the absolute
temperature of a body whose molecules have energy equal to
the corpuscle is thus 300• 273, or about 80,000 d(,grees
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absolute : this is about 13 times the absolute temperature of

th~ sun, and as the maximum energy in the solar spectrum
is in the neighbourhood of Wave-length 4"9 • 10 -5 era., and as
the w'tve-length for maximum energy is inversely proper(tonal
to the absolute temperature, the maximum energy for light
au'tlogons in its properties to the radiation emitted by the
recombination of the ions would be in the neighbo~rhood of
wave-length 3"8 • 10 -~ cm., and would thus correspond to
light very far in the ultra-violet. The theory is supported by
(he f~et that those regions in a discharge-tube where recom-
bination is takirig place, such as the negative glow, are the
sources of a type of radiation called "Entladungstrahlen"
~hich has many ot~ the properties of ultra-violet light.
Suppose now that besides the corpuscles which can be
dislodged from the atom by the expenditure of an amount of
energy measured by a few volts, there are in the atom other
systems which require for their dissociation a much greater
amount ot~ energy, say an amount measured by thousands of
volts. If the ionization of th~se system~ is to be effected by
cathode rays, it w~ll not begin unless the rays have the
velocity due to this number of volts ; when, however, the
rays have a greater velocity than this, some of these systems
will be ionized, and a positive residue produced which will
have with respect to a corpuscle at some distance away
potential energy measured by x thousand volts. When the
residue and the corpuscle uni~ and reproduce the original
system, this amount of energy will have to be radiated away;
~)nd the type of the radiation will be such that it is repre-
sented by waves with wave-lengths:less than tho.~e in the
preceding case in the proportion of 1 : 1 0 0 x . Thus the
maximum energywould be in the neighbourhood of wave-
length 10 "s cm., t. e. the radiation would be IlSntgen radia-
tion. Thus the presence in the atom of systems requiring a
large quantity o f energy to ionize them, would give rise to
RSntgen radiation of a type determined solely by the pro-
perties of the atom. The energy in tiffs radiation would be
by Moving Electrified Particles. 457
divided into definite units or quanta, the character of the
radiation when excited would be independent of the means
used to excite it, but it would not be excited unless the
velocity of the primary cathode rays exceeded a critical value.
This radiation has all the characteristics oE the "charac-
teristic RSntgen radiation" discovered by Barkla. Barkla
made the very important discovery th~,t any element whose
atomic weight is greater thau 39 gives out, when exposed
to RSntgen radiation or cathode rays, secondary RSntgen
radiation whose type depends only on the nature o[ the
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element. For the same element the "characteristic" radiation

is the same whatever be the character of the primary radia-
tie,l, with this proviso, that the characteristic radiation is not
excited unless the primary RSntgen rays are " h a r d e r " than
the characteristic radiation, or if th~ cause of excitation is
cathode rays unless these are moving faster than a certain
critical velocity; these are just the characteristics of the
radiation emitted during the recombination of the systems
of the kind we have been considering. Whiddington has
shown that the least velocity of the cathode ray which can
excite the characteristic radiation of an atom of atomic
weight A is, in the case of all the elements he investigated,
approximately equal to 10 s A. cm./sec.
The existence of systems which are first dissociated and
then restored to their original condition by the falling in of
a corpuscle carrying with it kinetic energy, will also explaiu
the diminution of specific heat with temperature. For if
this is Lhc way by which kinetic energy is communicated to
the system, it is necessary that the system should first be
dissociated. If this is to be done by corpuscles their energy
must exceed a certain value w. The kinetic energy of the
free or quasi free corpuscles in a body is proportional to the
absolute temperature t~, letit equal aS. Then when at? is < w
the system will not absorb energy and so will not affect the
specific heat, but when a~ is > w the system can be dissociated,
can therefore absorb energy and therefore increase the specific
heat ; the specific heat therefore will be greater when a0 > w
than when a~ < w. If We calculate on these lines the specific
heat of a body whose molecules contain systems which rec~uire
for their dissociation wl, w2. . . . w= units of work, and sup~. se
that the energy is distributed among the corpuscles according
to ]~axwell's law, we get an expression for the specific heat
as a function of temperature of the same tbrm as that .given
by Einstein, -hich is in accordance with the remarkable
results obtained by Professor Nernst and his pupils at v e r y
low temperatures.