The work function of gold (5.2 eV) is higher than silver (4.4 eV).

Does it mean, removing an electron from the surface of gold needs more energy and is difficult than silver?

  • $\begingroup$ Yes. Wikipedia - "In solid-state physics, the work function (sometimes spelled workfunction) is the minimum thermodynamic work (i.e. energy) needed to remove an electron from a solid to a point in the vacuum immediately outside the solid surface." $\endgroup$ – Farcher Apr 6 '17 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ How can removing an electron from gold be difficult than silver, gold is better conductor than silver, right?. $\endgroup$ – Shant Apr 6 '17 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ What has one process to do with the other except that both involve electrons? $\endgroup$ – Farcher Apr 6 '17 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't get you sir... please elaborate. thank you for your precious time. $\endgroup$ – Shant Apr 6 '17 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Shant No, actually silver is a better conductor than gold. Also, this is a helpful discussion that illuminates the difference between the work function and electron affinity researchgate.net/post/… $\endgroup$ – smelborp Apr 6 '17 at 13:28

The work function corresponds to the energy that has to receive an electron of the material during an interaction to free itself from the material.

In practice, it means in the case of the photo-electric effect that the energy of a photon hitting the surface has to be above the work function :

$E=h\nu\geq W$

However, the number of photons (so the intensity of the light) does not have to be important to enable the photo-electric effect.

So, in a word, it is harder in the sense that higher work functions require light of higher frequencies but not necessarily of high power.


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