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Photon vs. Electron: What's the Difference?

Edited by Huma Saeed || By Sara Rehman || Published on January 18, 2024
A photon is a quantum of electromagnetic energy without mass, while an electron is a negatively charged subatomic particle with mass.

Key Differences

Photons are the basic units of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. They are massless and always move at the speed of light. Electrons, on the other hand, are fundamental particles that make up atoms. They have a small but finite mass and a negative electric charge.
Sara Rehman
Jan 18, 2024
Photons are integral to theories of light and electromagnetic radiation, exhibiting both wave and particle properties. Electrons play a crucial role in electricity, magnetism, and thermal conductivity, and also display wave-particle duality.
Sara Rehman
Jan 18, 2024
The energy of a photon depends on its frequency, with higher frequency photons carrying more energy. Electrons have kinetic and potential energy based on their motion and interactions. Both photons and electrons can interact with matter, though in different ways.
Sara Rehman
Jan 18, 2024
Photons are key to technologies like lasers, solar cells, and fiber optics, exploiting their light properties. Electrons are essential in electronics, powering devices through their flow (electric current) and are central to semiconductor technology.
Huma Saeed
Jan 18, 2024
In quantum mechanics, photons are force carriers for electromagnetic interactions. Electrons, apart from their particle nature, are described by quantum states and are subject to the Pauli exclusion principle, influencing their arrangement in atoms.
Sara Rehman
Jan 18, 2024
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Comparison Chart

Mass

Massless
Has mass
Sara Rehman
Jan 18, 2024

Charge

Neutral
Negative charge
Huma Saeed
Jan 18, 2024

Speed

Always travels at the speed of light
Varies, but never reaches the speed of light
Sara Rehman
Jan 18, 2024

Role in Electromagnetism

Transmits electromagnetic forces
Involved in electrical currents
Sara Rehman
Jan 18, 2024

Quantum Behavior

Exhibits wave-particle duality
Exhibits wave-particle duality
Aimie Carlson
Jan 18, 2024
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Photon and Electron Definitions

Photon

A photon is a quantum of electromagnetic radiation.
In photosynthesis, photons from sunlight are absorbed by plants.
Harlon Moss
Dec 22, 2023

Electron

An electron is a subatomic particle with a negative charge.
Electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom.
Aimie Carlson
Dec 22, 2023

Photon

A photon is a carrier of light and other forms of electromagnetic energy.
The colors we see are the result of photons at different wavelengths.
Sara Rehman
Dec 22, 2023

Electron

An electron exhibits properties of both particles and waves.
Electron diffraction demonstrates the wave-like behavior of electrons.
Janet White
Dec 22, 2023

Photon

A photon is a massless particle that travels at the speed of light.
The speed of a photon is a fundamental constant in physics.
Aimie Carlson
Dec 22, 2023

Electron

An electron obeys the principles of quantum mechanics.
The behavior of electrons in atoms is described by quantum orbitals.
Harlon Moss
Dec 22, 2023

Photon

A photon is an elementary particle in the electromagnetic force.
Photons are exchanged in electromagnetic interactions between charged particles.
Sara Rehman
Dec 22, 2023

Electron

An electron has a role in electricity, magnetism, and thermal conductivity.
The flow of electrons in a wire constitutes an electric current.
Aimie Carlson
Dec 22, 2023

Photon

A photon exhibits both wave and particle properties.
The dual nature of a photon is evident in experiments like the double-slit test.
Aimie Carlson
Dec 22, 2023

Electron

An electron is a fundamental constituent of matter.
Electrons are essential for the formation of chemical bonds.
Huma Saeed
Dec 22, 2023

Photon

The elementary particle of light and other electromagnetic radiation; the quantum of electromagnetic energy. The photon is the massless, neutral vector boson that mediates electromagnetic interactions.
Sara Rehman
Dec 20, 2023

Electron

A stable elementary particle in the lepton class having a negative electric charge of 1 elementary unit (about 1.602 × 10-19 coulombs) and a mass of about 9.11 × 10-28 grams. Electrons are found in shells orbiting the nuclei of atoms and can also move freely through space as cathode rays in a cathode-ray tube or as beta particles emitted by radioactive nuclei, or flow in a current through a conducting material impelled by an electric potential difference.
Sara Rehman
Dec 20, 2023

Photon

(particle) The quantum of light and other electromagnetic energy, regarded as a discrete particle having zero rest mass, no electric charge, and an indefinitely long lifetime. It is a gauge boson.
Sara Rehman
Dec 20, 2023

Electron

(particle) The subatomic particle having a negative charge and orbiting the nucleus; the flow of electrons in a conductor constitutes electricity.
Sara Rehman
Dec 20, 2023

Photon

A quantum of electromagnetic radiation; an elementary particle that is its own antiparticle
Sara Rehman
Dec 20, 2023

Electron

Alloys of magnesium and other metals, like aluminum or zinc, that were manufactured by the German company Chemische Fabrik Griesheim-Elektron.
Sara Rehman
Dec 20, 2023

Electron

Amber; also, the alloy of gold and silver, called electrum.
Sara Rehman
Dec 20, 2023

Electron

One of the fundamental subatomic particles, having a negative charge and about one thousandth the mass of a hydrogen atom. The electron carries (or is) a natural unit of negative electricity, equal to 3.4 x 10-10 electrostatic units, and is classed by physicists as a lepton. Its mass is practically constant at the lesser speeds, but increases due to relativistic effects as the velocity approaches that of light. Electrons are all of one kind, so far as is known. Thus far, no structure has been detected within an electron, and it is probably one of the ultimate composite constituents of all matter. An atom or group of atoms from which an electron has been detached has a positive charge and is called a cation. Electrons are projected from the cathode of vacuum tubes (including television picture tubes) as cathode rays and from radioactive substances as the beta rays. Previously also referred to as corpuscle, an obsolete term. The motion of electrons through metallic conductors is observed as an electric current. A particle identical to the electron in mass and most other respects, but having a positive instead of a negative charge, is called a positron, or antielectron
Sara Rehman
Dec 20, 2023

Electron

An elementary particle with negative charge
Sara Rehman
Dec 20, 2023

FAQs

What is a photon?

A quantum of electromagnetic radiation, essentially a particle of light.
Sara Rehman
Jan 18, 2024

What is the charge of an electron?

Electrons have a negative charge.
Janet White
Jan 18, 2024

Can photons be absorbed?

Yes, photons can be absorbed by matter, transferring energy.
Sara Rehman
Jan 18, 2024

What determines the energy of a photon?

The energy of a photon is determined by its frequency.
Harlon Moss
Jan 18, 2024

How do photons interact with matter?

Photons can be absorbed, transmitted, or reflected by matter.
Sara Rehman
Jan 18, 2024

How do electrons contribute to electricity?

Electricity is the flow of electrons through a conductor.
Janet White
Jan 18, 2024

What is the role of photons in vision?

Photons are detected by the eyes, enabling vision.
Janet White
Jan 18, 2024

What is an electron?

A negatively charged subatomic particle found in atoms.
Huma Saeed
Jan 18, 2024

Do photons have mass?

No, photons are massless.
Sara Rehman
Jan 18, 2024

Do photons have a wavelength?

Yes, photons have a wavelength corresponding to their energy.
Sara Rehman
Jan 18, 2024

How fast do electrons move in an atom?

Electron speeds vary, but are generally a fraction of light speed.
Sara Rehman
Jan 18, 2024

What happens when a photon hits a solar panel?

It can be converted into electrical energy.
Sara Rehman
Jan 18, 2024

Are all electrons identical?

Yes, all electrons are identical in mass and charge.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 18, 2024

What is electron spin?

A quantum property of electrons, contributing to magnetic moments.
Harlon Moss
Jan 18, 2024

Can photons be polarized?

Yes, photons can exhibit different states of polarization.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 18, 2024

Do photons always travel at light speed?

Yes, in a vacuum, photons always travel at the speed of light.
Janet White
Jan 18, 2024

Can electrons exist independently of atoms?

Yes, electrons can exist free of atoms as in cathode rays.
Harlon Moss
Jan 18, 2024

How do electrons impact magnetism?

Electron spin and motion contribute to magnetic properties.
Sara Rehman
Jan 18, 2024

Are electrons involved in chemical reactions?

Yes, electrons play a key role in forming chemical bonds.
Sara Rehman
Jan 18, 2024

Are photons affected by gravity?

Yes, photons can be bent by gravitational fields, as in gravitational lensing.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 18, 2024
About Author
Written by
Sara Rehman
Sara Rehman is a seasoned writer and editor with extensive experience at Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Information Technology, she combines her academic prowess with her passion for writing to deliver insightful and well-researched content.
Edited by
Huma Saeed
Huma is a renowned researcher acclaimed for her innovative work in Difference Wiki. Her dedication has led to key breakthroughs, establishing her prominence in academia. Her contributions continually inspire and guide her field.

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