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It is the threshold energy, or the energy required to remove an electron from a metal surface. The threshold energy will vary based on the type of each metal. When the unit is J/mol, it is calculating the energy required to remove a mol of electrons.
A work function is the same thing as the threshold energy, which is the minimum amount of energy needed to remove an electron from a metal; it will usually be given to you in a problem. Since energy is measured in Joules, the units of the work function would be in Joules.
Sometimes the work function is given in joules per mole; however, we need it to be just joules in the problem for the equation. Therefore, ensure to divide the joules/mole number by avagadro's number before you input that value into the problem!
The definition of the work function is the energy required to remove one electron from the metal surface. The unit for this is often Joules per mole because that is a more standard way of writing energy. Even though the energy is reported in those units, work function refers to just one electron so it must be converted to Joules per atom.
Claire Lo 3C wrote:What exactly is the definition of work function? If it's the energy needed to remove a single electron from solid metal, why is the unit sometimes J per mole?
The work function is energy to remove e-. Usually you want the units to be joules per electron (the amount of joules to remove one e-), So, divide by Avagadro's Number to change per mole to per electron (if given in joules per mole).
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