Letter | Published:

The Heat developed during the Absorption of Electricity by Metals

Nature volume 82, page 278 (06 January 1910) | Download Citation



IN 1901 (O. W. Richardson, Camb. Phil. Proc., vol. xi., p. 286) one of the present writers showed that the phenomena attending the emission of negative electricity by hot metals could be explained on the assumption that the electrons which, on the electron theory of metallic conduction, move freely inside the metal attain sufficient kinetic energy at high temperatures to enable them to overcome the forces tending to keep them inside the surface and so escape. From the way in which the thermionic current varied with the temperature of the metal it was shown that the difference in the value of the potential energy of an electron when outside and when inside a metal could be calculated. Somewhat later (O. W. Richardson, Phil. Trans., A, vol. cci., p. 497) it was shown that the existence of this difference in the potential energies would involve a loss of thermal energy by the substance when the electrons were being given off, and it was pointed out that this effect would increase very rapidly with the temperature, so that at sufficiently high temperatures the loss of energy due to this cause would be greater than that arising from thermal radiation. An effect of this character has recently been discovered by Wehnelt and Jentzsch (Ann. der Physik, iv., vol. xxviii., p. 537).

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Author information


  1. Palmer Physical Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., December 21, 1909.

    •  & H. L. COOKE


  1. Search for O. W. RICHARDSON in:

  2. Search for H. L. COOKE in:

About this article

Publication history





By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.