Potential well

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Potential well in one dimension. The potential energy is shown as a function of the location. According to classical mechanics, particles with the energy E shown cannot leave the potential well and can only stay in the region from to .

The physical term potential well is a descriptive name for the region around a local minimum of the potential distribution of a system. One uses the idea of ​​a body in a gravitational field, e.g. B. that of the earth. If the body lies in a pot, it can only leave it if it is lifted above the edge of the pot by supplying the appropriate amount of energy.

The limit energy required to leave a potential well is sharply defined in classical physics . For objects that have to be described with quantum mechanics , however, this no longer applies: atomic particles, even if they have less energy than the energy required to leave the pot, have a certain probability of being outside the potential pot (see tunnel effect ).

A potential mountain is the opposite of a potential well, i.e. the region around a local maximum of the potential distribution.

The potential wells of an atomic nucleus for neutrons (left) and protons (right)
Potential well for a neutron de.png Potential well for a proton de.png

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