In physics, the electronvolt (symbol eV; also written electron volt) is a unit of energy equal to approximately 160 zeptojoules (symbol zJ) or ×10−19 1.6joules (symbol J). By definition, it is the amount of energy gained (or lost) by the charge of a single electron moved across an electric potential difference of one volt. Thus it is 1 volt (1 joule per coulomb, ) multiplied by the 1 J/Celementary charge (e, or 1766208(98)×10−19 C1.602). Therefore, one electron volt is equal to 1766208(98)×10−19 J. 1.602 Historically, the electron volt was devised as a standard unit of measure through its usefulness in electrostatic particle accelerator sciences because a particle with charge q has an energy E = qV after passing through the potential V; if q is quoted in integer units of the elementary charge and the terminal bias in volts, one gets an energy in eV.
The electron volt is not an SI unit, and its definition is empirical (unlike the litre, the light year and other such non-SI units), thus its value in SI units must be obtained experimentally. Like the elementary charge on which it is based, it is not an independent quantity but is equal to 1 J/ √. It is a common unit of energy within physics, widely used in solid state, atomic, nuclear, and particle physics. It is commonly used with the metric prefixes milli-, kilo-, mega-, giga-, tera-, peta- or exa- (meV, keV, MeV, GeV, TeV, PeV and EeV respectively). Thus meV stands for milli-electron volt.
In some older documents, and in the name Bevatron, the symbol BeV is used, which stands for billion electron volts; it is equivalent to the GeV.
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By mass–energy equivalence, the electronvolt is also a unit of mass. It is common in particle physics, where units of mass and energy are often interchanged, to express mass in units of eV/c2, where c is the speed of light in vacuum (from E = mc2). It is common to simply express mass in terms of "eV" as a unit of mass, effectively using a system of natural units with c set to 1. The mass equivalent of is 1 eV/c2
For example, an electron and a positron, each with a mass of , can 0.511 MeV/c2annihilate to yield of energy. The 1.022 MeVproton has a mass of . In general, the masses of all 0.938 GeV/c2hadrons are of the order of , which makes the 1 GeV/c2GeV (gigaelectronvolt) a convenient unit of mass for particle physics:
- = 1 GeV/c2×10−27 kg. 1.783
- 1 amu = = 931.4941 MeV/c24941 GeV/c2. 0.931
In high-energy physics, the electron volt is often used as a unit of momentum. A potential difference of 1 volt causes an electron to gain an amount of energy (i.e., ). This gives rise to usage of eV (and keV, MeV, GeV or TeV) as units of momentum, for the energy supplied results in acceleration of the particle. 1 eV
The dimensions of momentum units are LMT−1. The dimensions of energy units are L2MT−2. Then, dividing the units of energy (such as eV) by a fundamental constant that has units of velocity (LT−1), facilitates the required conversion of using energy units to describe momentum. In the field of high-energy particle physics, the fundamental velocity unit is the speed of light in vacuum c. Thus, dividing energy in eV by the speed of light, one can describe the momentum of an electron in units of eV/c. 
The fundamental velocity constant c is often dropped from the units of momentum by way of defining units of length such that the value of c is unity. For example, if the momentum p of an electron is said to be , then the conversion to MKS can be achieved by: 1 GeV
In particle physics, a system of "natural units" in which the speed of light in vacuum c and the reduced Planck constant ħ are dimensionless and equal to unity is widely used: c = ħ = 1. In these units, both distances and times are expressed in inverse energy units (while energy and mass are expressed in the same units, see mass–energy equivalence). In particular, particle scattering lengths are often presented in units of inverse particle masses.
Outside this system of units, the conversion factors between electronvolt, second, and nanometer are the following:
The above relations also allow expressing the mean lifetime τ of an unstable particle (in seconds) in terms of its decay width Γ (in eV) via Γ = ħ/τ. For example, the B0 meson has a lifetime of 1.530(9) picoseconds, mean decay length is cτ = 459.7 µm, or a decay width of ±25)×10−4 eV. (4.302
Conversely, the tiny meson mass differences responsible for meson oscillations are often expressed in the more convenient inverse picoseconds.
For example, a typical magnetic confinement fusion plasma is , or 170 megakelvin. 15 keV
As an approximation: kBT is about (≈ 0.025 eV290 K/) at a temperature of . 20 °C
The energy E, frequency v, and wavelength λ of a photon are related by
A photon with a wavelength of (green light) would have an energy of approximately 532 nm. Similarly, 2.33 eV would correspond to an infrared photon of wavelength 1 eV or frequency 1240 nm. 241.8 THz
In a low-energy nuclear scattering experiment, it is conventional to refer to the nuclear recoil energy in units of eVr, keVr, etc. This distinguishes the nuclear recoil energy from the "electron equivalent" recoil energy (eVee, keVee, etc.) measured by scintillation light. For example, the yield of a phototube is measured in phe/keVee (photoelectrons per keV electron-equivalent energy). The relationship between eV, eVr, and eVee depends on the medium the scattering takes place in, and must be established empirically for each material.
- ×1032 eV: total energy released from a 20 5.25kt nuclear fission device
- ×1028 eV: the energy at the 1.22Planck scale
- ×1025 eV: the approximate 1grand unification energy
- ~624 EeV (×1020 eV): energy consumed by a single 100-watt light bulb in one second ( 6.24 = 100 W ≈ 100 J/s×1020 eV/s) 6.24
- 300 EeV (×1020 eV = ~ 3J): 50  the so-called Oh-My-God particle (the most energetic cosmic ray particle ever observed)
- : two petaelectronvolts, the most high-energetic neutrino detected by the 2 PeVIceCube neutrino telescope in Antarctica
- : the designed proton collision energy at the 14 TeVLarge Hadron Collider (operated at about half of this energy since 30 March 2010, reached 13TeV in May 2015)
- : a trillion electronvolts, or 1 TeV×10−7 J, about the kinetic energy of a flying 1.602mosquito
- 125.1±0.2 GeV: the energy corresponding to the mass of the Higgs boson, as measured by two separate detectors at the LHC to a certainty better than 5 sigma
- : the average energy released in fission of one 210 MeVPu-239 atom
- : the average energy released in 200 MeVnuclear fission of one U-235 atom
- : the average energy released in the 17.6 MeVfusion of deuterium and tritium to form He-4; this is per kilogram of product produced 0.41 PJ
- ( 1 MeV×10−13 J): about twice the 1.602rest energy of an electron
- : the energy required to 13.6 eVionize atomic hydrogen; molecular bond energies are on the order of to 1 eV per bond 10 eV
- to 1.6 eV: the 3.4 eVphoton energy of visible light
- : the 25 meVthermal energy kBT at room temperature; one air molecule has an average kinetic energy 38 meV
- : the 230 µeVthermal energy kBT of the cosmic microwave background
Notes and references
- IUPAC Gold Book, p. 75
- SI brochure, Sec. 4.1 Table 7 Archived December 9, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- "CODATA Value: elementary charge". The NIST Reference on Constants, Units, and Uncertainty. US National Institute of Standards and Technology. June 2015. Retrieved 2015-09-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- "CODATA Value: electron volt". The NIST Reference on Constants, Units, and Uncertainty. US National Institute of Standards and Technology. June 2015. Retrieved 2015-09-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- What is Light? – UC Davis lecture slides
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- Barrow, J. D. "Natural Units Before Planck." Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society 24 (1983): 24.
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- Open Questions in Physics. German Electron-Synchrotron. A Research Centre of the Helmholtz Association. Updated March 2006 by JCB. Original by John Baez.
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- Glossary - CMS Collaboration, CERN
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