Planck cautiously insisted that this was simply an aspect of the processes of absorption and emission of radiation and had nothing to do with the physical reality of the radiation itself. In fact, he considered his quantum hypothesis a mathematical trick to get the right answer rather than a sizable discovery. However, in 1905 Albert Einstein interpreted Planck’s quantum hypothesis realistically and used it to explain the photoelectric effect, in which shining light on certain materials can eject electrons from the material. He won the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for this work.
Einstein further developed this idea to show that an electromagnetic wave such as light could also be described as a particle (later called the photon), with a discrete quantum of energy that was dependent on its frequency.
The foundations of quantum mechanics were established during the first half of the 20th century by Max Planck, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Louis de Broglie, Arthur Compton, Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Max Born, John von Neumann, Paul Dirac, Enrico Fermi, Wolfgang Pauli, Max von Laue, Freeman Dyson, David Hilbert, Wilhelm Wien, Satyendra Nath Bose, Arnold Sommerfeld, and others. The Copenhagen interpretation of Niels Bohr became widely accepted.
In the mid-1920s, developments in quantum mechanics led to its becoming the standard formulation for atomic physics. In the summer of 1925, Bohr and Heisenberg published results that closed the old quantum theory. Out of deference to their particle-like behavior in certain processes and measurements, light quanta came to be called photons (1926). In 1926 Erwin Schrödinger suggested a partial differential equation for the wave functions of particles like electrons. And when effectively restricted to a finite region, this equation allowed only certain modes, corresponding to discrete quantum states – whose properties turned out to be exactly the same as implied by matrix mechanics. From Einstein’s simple postulation was born a flurry of debating, theorizing, and testing. Thus, the entire field of quantum physics emerged, leading to its wider acceptance at the Fifth Solvay Conference in 1927.
It was found that subatomic particles and electromagnetic waves are neither simply particle nor wave but have certain properties of each. This originated the concept of wave–particle duality.
By 1930, quantum mechanics had been further unified and formalized by the work of David Hilbert, Paul Dirac and John von Neumann with greater emphasis on measurement, the statistical nature of our knowledge of reality, and philosophical speculation about the ‘observer’. It has since permeated many disciplines, including quantum chemistry, quantum electronics, quantum optics, and quantum information science. Its speculative modern developments include string theory and quantum gravity theories. It also provides a useful framework for many features of the modern periodic table of elements, and describes the behaviors of atoms during chemical bonding and the flow of electrons in computer semiconductors, and therefore plays a crucial role in many modern technologies.
The word quantum derives from the Latin, meaning “how great” or “how much”. In quantum mechanics, it refers to a discrete unit assigned to certain physical quantities such as the energy of an atom at rest (see Figure 1). The discovery that particles are discrete packets of energy with wave-like properties led to the branch of physics dealing with atomic and subatomic systems which is today called quantum mechanics. It underlies the mathematical framework of many fields of physics and chemistry, including condensed matter physics, solid-state physics, atomic physics, molecular physics, computational physics, computational chemistry, quantum chemistry, particle physics, nuclear chemistry, and nuclear physics.[better source needed] Some fundamental aspects of the theory are still actively studied.