Mössbauer effect

Mössbauer effect

The Mössbauer effect, or recoilless nuclear resonance fluorescence‎, is a physical phenomenon discovered by Rudolf Mössbauer in 1958. It involves the resonant and recoil-free emission and absorption of γ radiation by atomic nuclei bound in a solid. Its main application is in Mössbauer spectroscopy.



The emission and absorption of x-rays by gases had been observed previously, and it was expected that a similar phenomenon would be found for gamma rays, which are created by nuclear transitions (as opposed to x-rays, which are typically produced by electronic transitions). However, attempts to observe gamma-ray resonance in gases failed due to energy being lost to recoil, preventing resonance (the Doppler effect also broadens the gamma-ray spectrum). Mössbauer was able to observe resonance in solid iridium, which raised the question of why gamma-ray resonance was possible in solids, but not in gases. Mössbauer proposed that, for the case of atoms bound into a solid, under certain circumstances a fraction of the nuclear events could occur essentially without recoil. He attributed the observed resonance to this recoil-free fraction of nuclear events.

The Mössbauer effect was one of the last major discoveries in physics to be originally reported in German language. The first report in English language was a letter describing a repetition of the experiment.[1]

The discovery was rewarded with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1961 together with Robert Hofstadter's research of electron scattering in atomic nuclei.


Mossbauer 51Fe.png

In general, gamma rays are produced by nuclear transitions from an unstable high-energy state, to a stable low-energy state. The energy of the emitted gamma ray corresponds to the energy of the nuclear transition, minus an amount of energy that is lost as recoil to the emitting atom. If the lost "recoil energy" is small compared with the energy linewidth of the nuclear transition, then the gamma ray energy still corresponds to the energy of the nuclear transition, and the gamma ray can be absorbed by a second atom of the same type as the first. This emission and subsequent absorption is called resonance. Additional recoil energy is also lost during absorption, so in order for resonance to occur the recoil energy must actually be less than half the linewidth for the corresponding nuclear transition.

The amount of energy in the recoiling body (ER) can be found from momentum conservation:

|P_\mathrm{R}| = |P_\mathrm{\gamma}| \,

where PR is the momentum of the recoiling matter, and Eγ the momentum of the gamma ray. Substituting energy into the equation gives:

E_\mathrm{R} = \frac{E_\mathrm{\gamma}^2}{2Mc^2}

where ER (0.002 eV for 57
) is the energy lost as recoil, Eγ is the energy of the gamma ray (14.4 keV for 57
), M (56.9354 u for 57
) is the mass of the emitting or absorbing body, and c is the speed of light.[2] In the case of a gas the emitting and absorbing bodies are atoms, so the mass is quite small, resulting in a large recoil energy, which prevents resonance. (Note that the same equation applies for recoil energy losses in x-rays, but the photon energy is much less, resulting in a lower energy loss, which is why gas-phase resonance could be observed with x-rays.)

In a solid, the nuclei are bound to the lattice and do not recoil in the same way as in a gas. The lattice as a whole recoils but the recoil energy is negligible because the M in the above equation is the mass of the whole lattice. However, the energy in a decay can be taken up or supplied by lattice vibrations. The energy of these vibrations is quantised in units known as phonons. The Mössbauer effect occurs because there is a finite probability of a decay occurring involving no phonons. Thus in a fraction of the nuclear events (the recoil-free fraction, given by the Lamb–Mössbauer factor), the entire crystal acts as the recoiling body, and these events are essentially recoil-free. In these cases, since the recoil energy is negligible, the emitted gamma rays have the appropriate energy and resonance can occur.

In general (depending on the half-life of the decay), gamma rays have very narrow linewidths. This means they are very sensitive to small changes in the energies of nuclear transitions. In fact, gamma rays can be used as a probe to observe the effects of interactions between a nucleus and its electrons and those of its neighbors. This is the basis for Mössbauer spectroscopy, which combines the Mössbauer effect with the Doppler effect to monitor such interactions.

Zero-phonon optical transitions, a process closely analogous to the Mössbauer effect, can be observed in lattice-bound chromophores at low temperatures.

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ Craig, P.; Dash, J.; McGuire, A.; Nagle, D.; Reiswig, R. (1959). "Nuclear Resonance Absorption of Gamma Rays in Ir191". Physical Review Letters 3 (5): 221. Bibcode 1959PhRvL...3..221C. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.3.221. 
  2. ^ Nave, C.R. (2005). "Mössbauer Effect in Iron-57". HyperPhysics. Georgia State University. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nuclear/mossfe.html. Retrieved 7 June 2010. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mössbauer effect — [môs′bou΄ər] n. [after MÖSSBAUER Rudolf Ludwig] the phenomenon in which gamma rays from the nuclei of certain radioactive isotopes do not lose energy from the recoil of those nuclei if the nuclei are bound in the lattice of a crystal …   English World dictionary

  • Mössbauer effect — Physics. the phenomenon in which an atom in a crystal undergoes no recoil when emitting a gamma ray, giving all the emitted energy to the gamma ray, resulting in a sharply defined wavelength. [1955 60; named after R. MÖSSBAUER] * * * ▪ physics… …   Universalium

  • Mössbauer effect — Mesbauerio efektas statusas T sritis fizika atitikmenys: angl. Mössbauer effect vok. Mößbauer Effekt, m rus. эффект Мёссбауэра, m pranc. effet Mössbauer, m …   Fizikos terminų žodynas

  • Mössbauer effect — Mesbauerio reiškinys statusas T sritis fizika atitikmenys: angl. Mössbauer effect vok. Mößbauer Effekt, m rus. эффект Мёссбауэра, m pranc. effet Mössbauer, m …   Fizikos terminų žodynas

  • Mössbauer effect — Mesbauerio efektas statusas T sritis chemija apibrėžtis Beatatrankis γ kvantų išspinduliavimas ar sugėrimas kietojo kūno atomų branduoliuose. atitikmenys: angl. Mössbauer effect rus. эффект Мессбауера …   Chemijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

  • Mössbauer effect — /ˈmɒsbaʊər əfɛkt/ (say mosbowuhr uhfekt) noun a discovery made in 1957, that in certain cases the recoil of atoms caused by gamma ray emission or absorption is shared throughout a crystal lattice. {named after RL Mössbauer, 1929–2011, German… …   Australian English dictionary

  • mössbauer effect — ˈmə(r)sˌbau̇(ə)r , ˈmə̄s , ˈmœs , ˈmȯs noun Usage: usually capitalized M Etymology: after Rudolf L. Mössbauer b1929 German physicist : the emission and absorption of gamma rays without recoil by various radioactive nuclei embedded in solids… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Mössbauer effect — noun the resonant and recoil free emission and absorption of gamma rays by atoms in the solid state; the basis of a type of spectroscopy with applications in both physics and chemistry Syn: nuclear gamma resonance fluorescence …   Wiktionary

  • Mossbauer effect — Смотри эффект Мессбауэра …   Энциклопедический словарь по металлургии

  • Mossbauer effect — Смотри Ягр (ядерный гамма резонанс) …   Энциклопедический словарь по металлургии