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Yes, it must be done in a vacuum. Under regular atmospheric conditions, electrons collide several times with the various molecules that are in our air, which causes them to lose energy. This would interfere with the threshold energy of electrons that allows for the energy level changes that occur as a result of the photoelectric effect.
Yah because it is measuring the electrons thus it needs the vacuum because the gas particles can affect the photoelectric effect by colliding with the electrons. This can mess up the experiment thus a vacuum is needed.
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