A photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation, and the force carrier for the electromagnetic force, even when static via virtual photons. The effects of this force are easily observable at both the microscopic and macroscopic level, because the photon has no rest mass; this allows for interactions at long distances. Like all elementary particles, photons are currently best explained by quantum mechanics and exhibit wave–particle duality, exhibiting properties of both waves and particles. For example, a single photon may be refracted by a lens or exhibit wave interference with itself, but also act as a particle giving a definite result when its position is measured.
The modern photon concept was developed gradually by Albert Einstein to explain experimental observations that did not fit the classical wave model of light. In particular, the photon model accounted for the frequency dependence of light's energy, and explained the ability of matter and radiation to be in thermal equilibrium. It also accounted for anomalous observations, including the properties of black body radiation, that other physicists, most notably Max Planck, had sought to explain using semiclassical models, in which light is still described by Maxwell's equations, but the material objects that emit and absorb light, do so in amounts of energy that are quantized (i.e., they change energy only by certain particular discrete amounts and cannot change energy in any arbitrary way). Although these semiclassical models contributed to the development of quantum mechanics, many further experiments starting with Compton scattering of single photons by electrons, first observed in 1923, validated Einstein's hypothesis that light itself is quantized. In 1926 the chemist Gilbert N. Lewis coined the name photon for these particles, and after 1927, when Arthur H. Compton won the Nobel Prize for his scattering studies, most scientists accepted the validity that quanta of light have an independent existence, and Lewis' term photon for light quanta was accepted.
In the Standard Model of particle physics, photons are described as a necessary consequence of physical laws having a certain symmetry at every point in spacetime. The intrinsic properties of photons, such as charge, mass and spin, are determined by the properties of this gauge symmetry. The photon concept has led to momentous advances in experimental and theoretical physics, such as lasers, Bose–Einstein condensation, quantum field theory, and the probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics. It has been applied to photochemistry, high-resolution microscopy, and measurements of molecular distances. Recently, photons have been studied as elements of quantum computers and for sophisticated applications in optical communication such as quantum cryptography.
Read more about Photon: Nomenclature, Physical Properties, Historical Development, Early Objections, Wave–particle Duality and Uncertainty Principles, Bose–Einstein Model of A Photon Gas, Stimulated and Spontaneous Emission, Second Quantization, The Photon As A Gauge Boson, Contributions To The Mass of A System, Photons in Matter, Technological Applications, Recent Research