Quantum excitation (accelerator physics)

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Quantum excitation is the effect in circular accelerators or storage rings whereby the discreteness of photon emission causes the charged particles (typically electrons) to undergo a random walk or diffusion process.


An electron moving through a magnetic field emits radiation called synchrotron radiation. The expected amount of radiation can be calculated using the classical power. Considering quantum mechanics, however, this radiation is emitted in discrete packets of photons. For this description, the distribution of number of emitted photons and also the energy spectrum for the electron should be determined instead.

In particular, the normalized power spectrum emitted by a charged particle moving in a bending magnet is given by

This result has been derived originally by Dmitri Ivanenko and Arseny Sokolov and independently by Julian Schwinger in 1949 [1]

By dividing each power of this power spectrum by the energy, we obtain the photon flux

Power spectrum emitted by an accelerated charge

The photon flux from this normalized power spectrum (of all energies) is then

That the above photon flux integral is finite implies discrete photon emission. It is in fact a Poisson process. The emission rate is

[photon/sec] from [4.4][2] [5.9][2] [5.12][2]

For a travelled distance at a speed close to (), the average number of emitted photons by the particle can be expressed as

where is the fine-structure constant

The probability that k photons are emitted over is

The photon number curve and the power spectrum curve intersect at the critical energy

where ,E is the total energy of the charged particle, is the radius of curvature, the classical electron radius, the particle rest mass energy, the reduced Planck constant and the speed of light.

The mean of the quantum energy is given by and impact mainly the radiation damping. However, the particle motion perturbation (diffusion) is mainly related by the variance of the quantum energy and leads to an equilibrium emittance. The diffusion coefficient at a given position is given by


Further reading[edit]

For an early analysis of the effect of quantum excitation on electron beam dynamics in storage rings, see the article by Matt Sands.[2]


  1. ^ Schwinger, Julian (1949). "Qn the Classical Radiation of Accelerated Electrons". Physical Review. 75 (12): 1912–1925. Bibcode:1949PhRv...75.1912S. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.75.1912.
  2. ^ a b c d Sands, Matthew (1970). The Physics of Electron Storage Rings: An Introduction by Matt Sands (PDF) – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ Carmignani, Nicola; Nash, Boaz (2014). Quantum Diffusion Element in AT (PDF).