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Work Function is defined as the energy required by a free electron to escape from the surface of a metal. But what happens if the electron which is emitted is not at the surface but a little deep from the surface. In this case what is the energy which brings the electron to the surface of the metal?

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  • $\begingroup$ Where did you get that definition? A free electron is not bound and wouldn't require any work to free it from something. $\endgroup$ – Bill N Apr 3 '18 at 2:18
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Work function is for electron not on the surface but inside the metal.

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But what happens if the electron which is emitted is not at the surface but a little deep from the surface. In this case what is the energy which brings the electron to the surface of the metal?

Then the electron loses kinetic energy before reaching the surface, and an initial energy greater than $W$ is needed in order to eject it. This is one of the reasons why electrons emerge with a continuum of energies, not a single well-defined energy. Another reason is the existence of crud or oxidation on the surface.

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  • $\begingroup$ So you say the additional KE gained by the electron when frequency of light>threshold frequency is used to bring it to the surface? $\endgroup$ – harsha Apr 3 '18 at 4:42
  • $\begingroup$ @harsha: Yes, that's correct. $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell Apr 3 '18 at 15:28

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