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Fermi–Dirac statistics

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In quantum statistics, a branch of physics, Fermi–Dirac statistics describe a distribution of particles

over energy states in systems consisting of many identical particles that obey the "Pauli exclusion
principle". It is named after Enrico Fermi and Paul Dirac, each of whom discovered the method
independently (although Fermi defined the statistics earlier than Dirac).[1][2]

Fermi–Dirac (F–D) statistics apply to identical particles with half-integer spin in a system
with thermodynamic equilibrium. Additionally, the particles in this system are assumed to have
negligible mutual interaction. That allows the many-particle system to be described in terms of
single-particle energy states. The result is the F–D distribution of particles over these states which
includes the condition that no two particles can occupy the same state; this has a considerable effect
on the properties of the system. Since F–D statistics apply to particles with half-integer spin, these
particles have come to be called fermions. It is most commonly applied to electrons, which are
fermions with spin 1/2. Fermi–Dirac statistics are a part of the more general field of statistical
mechanics and use the principles of quantum mechanics.

The opposite of F–D statistics are the Bose–Einstein statistics, that apply to bosons (full integer spin
or no spin, like the Higgs boson), particles that do not follow the Pauli exclusion principle, meaning
that more than one boson can take up the same quantum configuration simultaneously.

 1History

 2Fermi–Dirac distribution

o 2.1Distribution of particles over energy

 3Quantum and classical regimes

 4Derivations

o 4.1Grand canonical ensemble

o 4.2Canonical ensemble

o 4.3Microcanonical ensemble

 5Limiting behavior

 6See also

 7References

 8Further reading


Before the introduction of Fermi–Dirac statistics in 1926, understanding some aspects of electron
behavior was difficult due to seemingly contradictory phenomena. For example, the electronic heat
capacity of a metal at room temperature seemed to come from 100 times fewer electrons than were
in the electric current.[3] It was also difficult to understand why those emission currents generated by
applying high electric fields to metals at room temperature were almost independent of

The difficulty encountered by the Drude model, the electronic theory of metals at that time, was due
to considering that electrons were (according to classical statistics theory) all equivalent. In other
words, it was believed that each electron contributed to the specific heat an amount on the order of
the Boltzmann constant kB. This statistical problem remained unsolved until the discovery of F–D

F–D statistics was first published in 1926 by Enrico Fermi[1] and Paul Dirac.[2] According to Max
Born, Pascual Jordan developed in 1925 the same statistics which he called Pauli statistics, but it was
not published in a timely manner.[4][5][6] According to Dirac, it was first studied by Fermi, and Dirac
called it Fermi statistics and the corresponding particles fermions.[7]

F–D statistics was applied in 1926 by Ralph Fowler to describe the collapse of a star to a white
dwarf.[8] In 1927 Arnold Sommerfeld applied it to electrons in metals and developed the free
electron model,[9]and in 1928 Fowler and Lothar Wolfgang Nordheim applied it to field electron
emission from metals.[10] Fermi–Dirac statistics continues to be an important part of physics.

Fermi–Dirac distribution[edit]

For a system of identical fermions with thermodynamic equilibrium, the average number of fermions
in a single-particle state i is given by a logistic function, or sigmoid function: the Fermi–Dirac (F–D)
where kB is Boltzmann's constant, T is the absolute temperature, εi is the energy of the single-
particle state i, and μ is the total chemical potential.

At zero temperature, μ is equal to the Fermi energy plus the potential energy per electron. For the
case of electrons in a semiconductor, μ, the point of symmetry, is typically called the Fermi
level or electrochemical potential.[12][13]

The F–D distribution is only valid if the number of fermions in the system is large enough so that
adding one more fermion to the system has negligible effect on μ.[14] Since the F–D distribution was
derived using the Pauli exclusion principle, which allows at most one fermion to occupy each

possible state, a result is that .[15]

 Fermi–Dirac distribution

Energy dependence. More gradual at higher T. = 0.5 when = .Not shown is

that decreases for higher T.[16]

Temperature dependence for .

(Click on a figure to enlarge.)

Distribution of particles over energy[edit]

Fermi function with μ = 0.55 eV for various temperatures in the range 50 K ≤ T ≤ 375 K
The above Fermi–Dirac distribution gives the distribution of identical fermions over single-particle
energy states, where no more than one fermion can occupy a state. Using the F–D distribution, one
can find the distribution of identical fermions over energy, where more than one fermion can have
the same energy.[17]

The average number of fermions with energy can be found by multiplying the F–D

distribution by the degeneracy (i.e. the number of states with energy ),[18]

When , it is possible that , since there is more than one state that can be occupied by

fermions with the same energy .

When a quasi-continuum of energies has an associated density of states (i.e. the number
of states per unit energy range per unit volume ), the average number of fermions per unit energy
range per unit volume is

where is called the Fermi function and is the same function that is used for the F–D

distribution ,[20]

so that

Quantum and classical regimes[edit]

The classical regime, where Maxwell–Boltzmann statistics can be used as an approximation to

Fermi–Dirac statistics, is found by considering the situation that is far from the limit imposed by
the Heisenberg uncertainty principle for a particle's position and momentum. It can then be shown
that the classical situation prevails when the concentration of particles corresponds to an average

interparticle separation that is much greater than the average de Broglie wavelength of
the particles:[21]

where h is Planck's constant, and m is the mass of a particle.

For the case of conduction electrons in a typical metal at T = 300 K (i.e. approximately room

temperature), the system is far from the classical regime because . This is due to the small

mass of the electron and the high concentration (i.e. small ) of conduction electrons in the
metal. Thus Fermi–Dirac statistics is needed for conduction electrons in a typical metal.[21]

Another example of a system that is not in the classical regime is the system that consists of the
electrons of a star that has collapsed to a white dwarf. Although the white dwarf's temperature is
high (typically T= 10000 K on its surface[22]), its high electron concentration and the small mass of
each electron precludes using a classical approximation, and again Fermi–Dirac statistics is


Grand canonical ensemble[edit]

The Fermi–Dirac distribution, which applies only to a quantum system of non-interacting fermions, is
easily derived from the grand canonical ensemble.[23] In this ensemble, the system is able to
exchange energy and exchange particles with a reservoir (temperature T and chemical
potential µ fixed by the reservoir).

Due to the non-interacting quality, each available single-particle level (with energy level ϵ) forms a
separate thermodynamic system in contact with the reservoir. In other words, each single-particle
level is a separate, tiny grand canonical ensemble. By the Pauli exclusion principle, there are only
two possible microstates for the single-particle level: no particle (energy E = 0), or one particle
(energy E = ϵ). The resulting partition function for that single-particle level therefore has just two

and the average particle number for that single-particle level substate is given by

This result applies for each single-particle level, and thus gives the Fermi–Dirac distribution for the
entire state of the system.[23]

The variance in particle number (due to thermal fluctuations) may also be derived (the particle
number has a simple Bernoulli distribution):

This quantity is important in transport phenomena such as the Mott relations for electrical
conductivity and thermoelectric coefficient for an electron gas,[24] where the ability of an energy

level to contribute to transport phenomena is proportional to .

Canonical ensemble[edit]

It is also possible to derive Fermi–Dirac statistics in the canonical ensemble. Consider a many-
particle system composed of N identical fermions that have negligible mutual interaction and are in
thermal equilibrium.[14] Since there is negligible interaction between the fermions, the

energy of a state of the many-particle system can be expressed as a sum of single-

particle energies,

where is called the occupancy number and is the number of particles in the single-particle

state with energy . The summation is over all possible single-particle states .

The probability that the many-particle system is in the state , is given by the
normalized canonical distribution,[25]

where ,e is called the Boltzmann factor, and the summation is over all possible

states of the many-particle system. The average value for an occupancy number is[25]

Note that the state of the many-particle system can be specified by the particle occupancy of

the single-particle states, i.e. by specifying so that

and the equation for becomes

where the summation is over all combinations of values of which obey the Pauli exclusion

principle, and = 0 or 1 for each . Furthermore, each combination of values

of satisfies the constraint that the total number of particles is ,

Rearranging the summations,

where the on the summation sign indicates that the sum is not over and is subject to the

constraint that the total number of particles associated with the summation is . Note

that still depends on through the constraint, since in one case and is

evaluated with while in the other case and is evaluated with To simplify the

notation and to clearly indicate that still depends on through , define

so that the previous expression for can be rewritten and evaluated in terms of the ,

The following approximation[26] will be used to find an expression to substitute for .


If the number of particles is large enough so that the change in the chemical potential is

very small when a particle is added to the system, then Taking the base e antilog[28] of both

sides, substituting for , and rearranging,

Substituting the above into the equation for , and using a previous definition of to

substitute for , results in the Fermi–Dirac distribution.

Like the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution and the Bose–Einstein distribution the Fermi–Dirac
distribution can also be derived by the Darwin–Fowler method of mean values (see Müller-

Microcanonical ensemble[edit]

A result can be achieved by directly analyzing the multiplicities of the system and using Lagrange
Suppose we have a number of energy levels, labeled by index i, each level having energy εi and
containing a total of ni particles. Suppose each level contains gi distinct sublevels, all of which have
the same energy, and which are distinguishable. For example, two particles may have different
momenta (i.e. their momenta may be along different directions), in which case they are
distinguishable from each other, yet they can still have the same energy. The value of gi associated
with level i is called the "degeneracy" of that energy level. The Pauli exclusion principle states that
only one fermion can occupy any such sublevel.

The number of ways of distributing ni indistinguishable particles among the gi sublevels of an energy
level, with a maximum of one particle per sublevel, is given by the binomial coefficient, using
its combinatorial interpretation

For example, distributing two particles in three sublevels will give population numbers of 110, 101,
or 011 for a total of three ways which equals 3!/(2!1!).

The number of ways that a set of occupation numbers ni can be realized is the product of the ways
that each individual energy level can be populated:

Following the same procedure used in deriving the Maxwell–Boltzmann statistics, we wish to find
the set of ni for which W is maximized, subject to the constraint that there be a fixed number of
particles, and a fixed energy. We constrain our solution using Lagrange multipliers forming the

Using Stirling's approximation for the factorials, taking the derivative with respect to ni, setting the
result to zero, and solving for ni yields the Fermi–Dirac population numbers:

By a process similar to that outlined in the Maxwell–Boltzmann statistics article, it can be shown

thermodynamically that and , so that finally, the probability that a state will be occupied

Limiting behavior[edit]

The Fermi-Dirac distribution approaches the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution in the limit of high
temperature and low particle density, without the need for any ad hoc assumptions