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Up-to-date literature on the Franck-Hertz experiment

Searching online

Seeking information online is heartbreaking. Typing "franck-hertz" in "Google" produces 50600 hits. A random perusal shows that most of them are "lab-manuals" posted by teachers, presumably for their own students. None of those is satisfactory. It is easy to demonstrate, for example, that at least with mercury, the experiment works regardless of the sign of the potential between the accelerating grid and the anode. This was pointed out in the literature more than 20 years ago (see McMahon 1983 below) and clearly implies that the present textbook explanation must be revised. It also shows that the majority of physics instructors are oblivious of recent progress. Fortunately, there is now a way to obtain the "serious" references among remarkably few items of the undesirable variety. Google Scholar produces only 52 hits which include several of the items listed below.


1) Melissinos A C 1966 Experiments in Modern Physics (New York: McGraw-Hill) pp. 8-17
2) Franck J and Hertz G 1914 Verh. Deutsche Phys. Ges. 16 457
3) Franck J and Hertz G 1925 Nobel lectures
    F-H Nobel pdf
4) Genoglio R J 1973 Am. J. Phys. 41 288 : Average energy of electrons in a Franck-Hertz tube.
5) Huebner J S 1976 Am. J. Phys. 44 302 : Comment on the Franck-Hertz experiment.
6) McMahon D R A 1983 Am. J. Phys. 51 1086 : Elastic collision effects in the Franck-Hertz experiment.
7) Hanne G F 1988 Am. J. Phys. 56 696 : What really happens in the Franck-Hertz experiment
    with mercury?
8) Robson R E, Li B and White R D 2000 J. Phys B: At. Mol. Opt. Phys. 33 507-520:
    Spatially periodic structures in electron swarms and the Franck-Hertz experiment.
    Spatially Periodic pdf
9) Siegeneger F and Winkler R 2002 Eur. Phys. J. AP19 211: On the kinetics of electron trapping
    in the Franck-Hertz experiment.
    Kinetics pdf
10) Siegeneger F, Winkler R and Robson R E 2003 Contrib. Plasma Phys. 43 178-197 : What really
      happens  with the electron gas in the famous Franck experiment?
      Electron gas pdf
11) Nicoletopoulos P and Robson R E 2008 Phys. Rev. Lett. 100, 124502: Periodic electron structures in gases:
      A fluid model of the "window" phenomenon.
      Fluid Model pdf

1) Harnwell G P and Livingood J J 1933 Exper. Atomic Phys. (New York: Academic) pp. 317-318
2) Melissinos A C 1966 Experiments in Modern Physics (New York: McGraw-Hill) pp. 8-17
3) Mohler F L, Foote P D and Meggers W F 1920 J. Opt. Soc. Am. 4 364 -370 : Resonance
    potentials and low-voltage arcs for metals of the second group of the periodic table.
4) Einsporn E 1921 Z. Phys. 5 208-219 : Über die Anregungs- und Ionisierungsspannungen des
5) Eldridge J A 1922 Phys. Rev. 20 456-475 : The energy losses accompanying ionization
    and resonance in mercury vapor.
    Eldridge pdf
6) Minkowski R 1923 Z. Phys. 18 208 : Über die freie Weglänge langsammer Electronen in
    Hg- and Cd- Dampf.
7) Martin A D and Quinn P J 1984 Am. J. Phys. 52 1114-1116 : Electron spectroscopy using
     a Franck-Hertz tube.
8) Liu F H 1987 Am. J. Phys. 55 366-369 : Franck-Hertz experiment with higher excitation
    level measurements.
9) Nicoletopoulos P 2002 Eur. J. Phys. 23 533-548 : Critical potentials of mercury with a
    Franck-Hertz tube.
    Critical Potentials pdf
10) Nicoletopoulos P 2004 Eur. J. Phys. 25 373-383 : The '0.4 eV' shape resonance of mercury
      in a Franck-Hertz tube.
      Shape Resonance pdf
11) Nicoletopoulos P 2008 Phys. Rev. E 78, 026403: Double-layer formation in the extended  Franck-Hertz experiment.
      Double Layer pdf