Electron Mass

Article written: 15 Nov , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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The mass of the electron, or the electron’s mass, written as me, is 9.109 382 15(45) x 10-31 kg. This is the “CODATA recommended value”. It was published in March 2007, and is referred to as the 2006 CODATA recommended value.

Some background: CODATA stands for Committee on Data for Science and Technology. Per NIST (the US National Institute for Standards and Technology), “CODATA was established in 1966 as an interdisciplinary committee of the International Council of Science (ICSU), formerly the International Council of Scientific Unions. It seeks to improve the compilation, critical evaluation, storage, and retrieval of data of importance to science and technology. The CODATA Task Group on Fundamental Constants was established in 1969. Its purpose is to periodically provide the international scientific and technological communities with an internationally accepted set of values of the fundamental physical constants and closely related conversion factors for use worldwide. The first such CODATA set was dated 1973, the second 1986, the third 1998, the fourth 2002, and the fifth (the current set) 2006.

The mass of the electron is one of the fundamental physical constants, so called because they are widespread in theories of physics, and because they are widely used in the application of those theories to other branches of science and to practical uses (such as engineering). Four of the other fundamental physical constants are c (speed of light in a vacuum), e (the charge of the electron), h (Plank’s constant), and α (fine structure constant).

The method used for measuring me is to measure the Rydberg constant (R) and calculate me from it ( me = 2Rh/(cα2 ); the Rydberg constant is, in the words of the paper (by Peter J. Mohr, Barry N. Taylor, David B. Newell) in which the 2006 CODATA recommended values were published “can be accurately determined by comparing measured resonant frequencies of transitions in hydrogen (H) and deuterium (D) to the theoretical expressions for the energy level differences in which it is a multiplicative factor.For more details, refer to the paper itself.

Given that it is a fundamental physical constant, no surprise that Universe Today has some articles on it! For example Are the Laws of Nature the Same Everywhere in the Universe, and Fermilab putting the Squeeze on Higgs Boson.

Here are two Astronomy Cast episodes in which the electron mass figures prominently Electromagnetism, and Energy Levels and Spectra.

Sources:
NIST
Wikipedia – Electron Rest Mass
Wikipedia – Rydberg constant

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