Compton Scattering

Key characteristics of Compton Scattering

  • Compton scattering dominates at intermediate energies.
  • It is the scattering of photons by atomic electrons  
  • Photons undergo a wavelength shift called the Compton shift.
  • The energy transferred to the recoil electron can vary from zero to a large fraction of the incident gamma ray energy

Definition of Compton Scattering

Compton scattering is the inelastic or nonclassical scattering of a photon (which may be an X-ray or gamma ray photon) by a charged particle, usually an electron. In Compton scattering, the incident gamma ray photon is deflected through an angle Θ with respect to its original direction. This deflection results in a decrease in energy (decrease in photon’s frequency) of the photon and is called the Compton effect. The photon transfers a portion of its energy to the recoil electron. The energy transferred to the recoil electron can vary from zero to a large fraction of the incident gamma ray energy, because all angles of scattering are possible. The Compton scattering was observed by A. H.Compton in 1923 at Washington University in St. Louis. Compton earned the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1927 for this new understanding about the particle-nature of photons.

Compton Scattering Formula

Compton Scattering

In Compton scattering, the incident gamma-ray photon is deflected through an angle Θ with respect to its original direction. This deflection results in a decrease in energy (decrease in photon’s frequency) of the photon and is called the Compton effect.
Source: hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu

The Compton formula was published in 1923 in the Physical Review. Compton explained that the X-ray shift is caused by particle-like momentum of photons. Compton scattering formula is the mathematical relationship between the shift in wavelength and the scattering angle of the X-rays. In the case of Compton scattering the photon of frequency f collides with an electron at rest. Upon collision, the photon bounces off electron, giving up some of its initial energy (given by Planck’s formula E=hf), While the electron gains momentum (mass x velocity), the photon cannot lower its velocity. As a result of momentum conservetion law, the photon must lower its momentum given by:As a result of momentum conservetion law, the photon must lower its momentum given by this formula.So the decrease in photon’s momentum must be translated into decrease in frequency (increase in wavelength Δλ = λ’ – λ). The shift of the wavelength increased with scattering angle according to the Compton formula:The shift of the wavelength increased with scattering angle according to the Compton formulawhereλ is the initial wavelength of photonλ’ is the wavelength after scattering,h is the Planck constant = 6.626 x 10-34 J.sme is the electron rest mass (0.511 MeV)c is the speed of lightΘ is the scattering angle.The minimum change in wavelength (λ′λ) for the photon occurs when Θ = 0° (cos(Θ)=1) and is at least zero. The maximum change in wavelength (λ′λ) for the photon occurs when Θ = 180° (cos(Θ)=-1). In this case the photon transfers to the electron as much momentum as possible.The maximum change in wavelength can be derived from Compton formula:The maximum change in wavelength can be derived from Compton formula. Compton lengthThe quantity h/mec is known as the Compton wavelength of the electron and is equal to 2.43×10−12 m.

Compton Scattering – Cross-Sections

The probability of Compton scattering per one interaction with an atom increases linearly with atomic number Z, because it depends on the number of electrons, which are available for scattering in the target atom. The angular distribution of photons scattered from a single free electron is described by the Klein-Nishina formula:The angular distribution of photons scattered from a single free electron is described by the Klein-Nishina formulawhere ε = E0/mec2 and r0 is the “classical radius of the electron” equal to about 2.8 x 10-13 cm. The formula gives the probability of scattering a photon into the solid angle element dΩ = 2π sin Θ dΘ when the incident energy is E0.

Compton scattering experiment

The wavelength change in such scattering depends only upon the angle of scattering for a given target particle.
Source: hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/

Cross section of compton scattering of photons by atomic electrons.Cross section of compton scattering of photons by atomic electrons.. Energies of a photon at 500 keV and an electron after Compton scattering.Energies of a photon at 500 keV and an electron after Compton scattering.

Compton Edge

In spectrophotometry, the Compton edge is a feature of the spectrograph that results from the Compton scattering in the scintillator or detector. This feature is due to photons that undergo Compton scattering with a scattering angle of 180° and then escape the detector. When a gamma ray scatters off the detector and escapes, only a fraction of its initial energy can be deposited in the sensitive layer of the detector. It depends on the scattering angle of the photon, how much energy will be deposited in the detector. This leads to a spectrum of energies. The Compton edge energy corresponds to full backscattered photon. 

Inverse Compton Scattering

Inverse Compton scattering is the scattering of low energy photons to high energies by relativistic electrons. Relativistic electrons can boost energy of low energy photons by a potentially enormous amount (even gamma rays can be produced). This phenomenon is very important in astrophysics.
Compton edge of 60Co on gamma spectrometer Na(Tl).Compton edge of 60Co on gamma spectrometer Na(Tl).
Inverse Compton scattering source: venables.asu.edusource: venables.asu.edu

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