As metals are heated, they glow white and then blue. How might you explain this change in color as the temperature of the metal is increased?

My answer consist of the idea that with increased thermal energy more electrons are excited and as they decay they emit wavelengths of the color blue. I am not sure how to connect the idea of white light to this answer because white light consist of all the wavelengths of the visible spectrum.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you think that all the electrons in the metal are excited to the same energy? $\endgroup$
    – matt_black
    Oct 29, 2018 at 15:34

1 Answer 1


I assume it is a homework question... You may want to into the concept of blackbody radiation, as an explanation. It is discussed in most PChem / Quantum Chem books in the first chapters. Feel free to update your question according to.

Generally, we do not say that photons are excited. Photons do not have ground and excited states in the same chemical sense as electrons. Excited states (of e.g. electron) may emit photons during de-excitation, but those are the excited state of the electron (before the photon even existed) not the photon.

Also, we generally do not say photon decay: technically you can argue that absorption is something like that, but it is definitely not a common way to phrase it, and obviously absorption is absorption, so it will not emit any radiation.

Note: After this answer, the question was changed to talk about electronic excitation instead of "photonic excitations", therefore a large part of my answer is irrelevant.


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