Optical observation of the thermal agitation of the atoms in crystals

Raman, C. V. (1922) Optical observation of the thermal agitation of the atoms in crystals Nature, 109 (2724). p. 42. ISSN 0028-0836

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Official URL: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v109/n2724/ab...

Related URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/109042a0


According to the theory of specific heats developed by Debye, Nernst, and others, the thermal energy of a solid is made up of the energy of elastic vibrations in its material, the frequencies of such vibrations ranging from very small values up to a maximum limit determined by the ultimate molecular or atomic structure. On this view it is clear that at ordinary temperatures the density of a solid, and therefore also its refractive index if it be of transparent material, would vary arbitrarily from point to point about its mean value. In other words, a transparent crystal cannot be regarded as optically homogeneous even with reference to the comparatively long waves which constitute ordinary light. It follows that a certain proportion of the energy of a beam of light traversing the medium would be deviated laterally and appear as scattered light, the intensity of such scattering being a measure of the thermal agitation within the crystal. That some such effect must occur has already been pointed out by Sir Joseph Larmor (Phil. Mag., vol. 37, p. 163, 1919), but no theoretical discussion of its magnitude appears so far to have been put forward. It has occurred to the present writer that the effect to be expected may be found in the following way:-If the principles of statistical mechanics and the equipartition of energy were applicable in the case of solids, precisely the same considerations which determine the molecular scattering of light in fluid media would enter here as well, and the scattering coefficient would be given by the Einstein-Smoluchowski formula.

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