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I'm having a bit of trouble reconciling information taught about the wave theory of light and the predictions it makes about the photoelectric effect.

Let me first explain my understanding of the wave theory vs. particle theory of light in regards to the photoelectric effect.

In a classic photoelectric experiment, the wave theory of light predicts that the the incident light intensity varies the amplitude and energy of light while the particle theory of light predicts that the intensity of light determines the amount of incident photons.

In the context of the ejecting electrons, this means that the wave theory of light predicts that as light intensity increases, the KE of the electrons increases due to the increased energy of light but the amount of electrons ejected remains the same, as the light hits the same number of electrons. Conversely, in the particle theory of light, the amount of electrons increases with intensity, as there are more incident photons per unit area, but the KE of each electron remains the same, as the energy of the light does not change.

From this understanding, I expected that the wave theory of light would predict that the saturation current (maximum current) in a photoelectric effect would not vary with the intensity of light, as it only effects the energy of the electrons which is the stopping voltage. However, I was told that my understanding was incorrect and that the saturation current would increase alongside the intensity of light under the wave theory of light model.

Where did I go wrong in coming to the conclusion that the saturation current would not in fact vary with the intensity of light according the wave theory of light?

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  • $\begingroup$ I’m not quite sure what your question is but I can understand your confusion For the wave theory of light. How can you discuss the saturation current of a wave in which itself cannot be described? It’s best to always consider a light wave as billions of individual photons. $\endgroup$ – Bill Alsept Apr 29 '18 at 17:29
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If you have constant frequency, and you increase the intensity, you will have more photons, more electrons will be removed from the material, so you will have a higher current.

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