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Book Chapter

Otto Stern and Wave-Particle Duality


Toennies,  Jan Peter
Emeritus Group Molecular Interactions, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Max Planck Society;

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Toennies, J. P. (2021). Otto Stern and Wave-Particle Duality. In B. Friedrich (Ed.), Molecular Beams in Physics and Chemistry (pp. 519-545). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-A45B-8
The contributions of Otto Stern to the discovery of wave-particle duality
of matter particles predicted by de Broglie are reviewed. After a short introduction to
the early matter-vs-wave ideas about light, the events are highlighted which lead to de
Broglie’s idea that all particles, also massive particles, should exhibit wave behavior
with a wavelength inversely proportional to their mass. The first confirming experimental evidence came for electrons from the diffraction experiments of Davisson
and Germer and those of Thomson. The first demonstration for atoms, with three
orders of magnitude smaller wave lengths, came from Otto Stern’s laboratory shortly
afterwards in 1929 in a remarkable tour de force experiment. After Stern’s forced
departure from Hamburg in 1933 it took more than 40 years to reach a similar
level of experimental perfection as achieved then in Stern’s laboratory. Today He
atom diffraction is a powerful tool for studying the atomic and electronic structure
and dynamics of surfaces. With the advent of nanotechnology nanoscopic transmission gratings have led to many new applications of matter waves in chemistry and
physics, which are illustrated with a few examples and described in more detail in
the following chapters.