Compton Scattering *

Compton scattered high energy photons from (essentially) free electrons in 1923. He measured the wavelength of the scattered photons as a function of the scattering angle. The figure below shows both the initial state (a) and the final state, with the photon scattered by an angle \bgroup\color{black}$\theta$\egroup and the electron recoiling at an angle \bgroup\color{black}$\phi$\egroup. The photons were from nuclear decay and so they were of high enough energy that it didn't matter that the electrons were actually bound in atoms. We wish to derive the formula for the wavelength of the scattered photon as a function of angle.


We solve the problem using only conservation of energy and momentum. Lets work in units in which \bgroup\color{black}$c=1$\egroup for now. We'll put the \bgroup\color{black}$c$\egroup back in at the end. Assume the photon is initially moving in the \bgroup\color{black}$z$\egroup direction with energy E and that it scatters in the \bgroup\color{black}$yz$\egroup plane so that \bgroup\color{black}$p_x=0$\egroup. Conservation of momentum gives




Conservation of energy gives


Our goal is to solve for \bgroup\color{black}$E'$\egroup in terms of \bgroup\color{black}$\cos\theta$\egroup so lets make sure we eliminate the \bgroup\color{black}$\phi$\egroup. Continuing from the energy equation


squaring and calculating \bgroup\color{black}$p_e^2$\egroup from the components


and writing out the squares on the right side

\begin{displaymath}\bgroup\color{black}E^2+E'^2+m^2-2EE'+2mE-2mE'=E^2+E'^2 -2EE'\cos\theta+m^2\egroup\end{displaymath}

and removing things that appear on both sides


and grouping

{(E-E')\over EE'}&=&{(1-\cos\...
...over m}\\
{1\over E'}-{1\over E}&=&{(1-\cos\theta)\over m}\\

Since \bgroup\color{black}$\lambda=h/p=h/E$\egroup in our fine units,

\begin{displaymath}\bgroup\color{black}\lambda'-\lambda={h\over m}(1-\cos\theta).\egroup\end{displaymath}

We now apply the speed of light to make the units come out to be a length.

\begin{displaymath}\bgroup\color{black}\lambda'-\lambda={hc\over mc^2}\left(1-\cos\theta\right)\egroup\end{displaymath}

These calculations can be fairly frustrating if you don't decide which variables you want to keep and which you need to eliminate from your equations. In this case we eliminated \bgroup\color{black}$\phi$\egroup by using the energy equation and computing \bgroup\color{black}$p_e^2$\egroup.

Jim Branson 2013-04-22