Zeeman Effect

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Zeeman effect is the splitting of a spectral line into several components in the presence of a static magnetic field. It is analogous to the Stark effect, the splitting of a spectral line into several components in the presence of an electric field. The Zeeman effect is very important in applications such as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, electron spin resonance spectroscopy, magnetic resonance imaging and Mössbauer spectroscopy. It may also be utilized to improve accuracy in Atomic absorption spectroscopy. When the spectral lines are absorption lines, the effect is called Inverse Zeeman effect. The Zeeman effect is named after the Dutch physicist Pieter Zeeman.

In most atoms, there exist several electronic configurations that have the same energy, so that transitions between different pairs of configurations correspond to a single spectral line. The presence of a magnetic field breaks the degeneracy, since it interacts in a different way with electrons with different quantum numbers, slightly modifying their energies. The result is that, where there were several configurations with the same energy, now there are different energies, which give rise to several very close spectral lines.