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So I have two teachers, and both teachers keep telling me two different things and I don't know who to believe.

1st Teacher: Says that when an electron gets more than enough energy to shift to the first energy level, but not enough to shift to the second, the electron shifts to the first and the remaining energy becomes Kinetic Energy(so the electron orbits faster).

2nd Teacher: The electron has to gain exactly the amount of energy needed to shift to an energy level or else it doesn't shift at all.(Even when the electron has more than enough energy to shift to the first energy level but not the second)

So which theory is right?

~Thanks

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  • $\begingroup$ very small side-note / pedantry: they aren't really theories, just statements. $\endgroup$ – user95137 Apr 28 '17 at 16:04
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Good question.

For an electron to jump between two bound levels of the atom, it must absorb EXACTLY the amount of energy corresponding to the energy difference between the levels. Photons that have energies that are too high or too low than any energy difference between levels will not interact with the electron. Teacher 2 is correct.

Teacher 1 may, however, be referring to ionization. If the photon has a large enough energy then it can cause the electron to jump past all of the bound energy levels and into a continuum energy state. In this case the excess energy IS converted into the kinetic energy of the electron.

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The second teacher. But when you ionize an atom, there are infinite energy levels above the ionization energy so every energy above the ionization energy will ionize the electron (some of the energy will go to ionization and the rest to kinetic energy).

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