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Comparison between Valence (Band) and Core Electrons - Practical Electron Microscopy and Database - - An Online Book -




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The electrons of an isolated atom can be separated into two groups: i) Valence electrons. ii) Core electrons.

The core electrons are mostly localized around the nuclei in the completely filled inner atomic shells. The valence electrons are in the outermost, partially filled atomic shells. The main properties of materials are determined by the valence electrons rather than by the core electrons. For this reason, the inner shell electrons are neglected in many analyses.

Figure 2375 shows an example of the ionization processes and generations of X-rays. A high-energy electron (incident electron) must penetrate through the outer conduction/valence bands and interact with the inner-shell (or core) electrons. If the high-energy electron transfers more than a critical amount of energy to an inner-shell electron (K electron here), that electron is ejected into the vacuum, that is, it escapes (step 2b in the figure) the attractive field of the nucleus, leaving a hole in the inner shell (K shell in the figure) and escapes above the Fermi level into the unfilled states. In this case, the atom is ionized. The excited atom can return almost to its ground state (lowest energy) by filling in the hole with an electron from an outer shell (step 3). This transition is accompanied by the emission of an X-ray in Figure 2375. The energy of the X-ray emission is characteristic of the difference in energy between the two electron shells involved (L3 → K in the figure) and this energy difference is unique to the specific atom.

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Figure 2375. Example of the ionization processes and generations of X-rays. The numbers indicates the process sequence. In this process, an inner (K) shell electron is ejected from the atom by a high-energy electron (incident electron). In step 3, the hole in the K shell is filled by an electron from the L shell (L3 here), characteristic (Kα) X-ray emission occurs (step 4). The beam electron loses energy but continues on through the specimen (step 2a).

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Steps 2a and 2b almost occur at the same time.