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Lecture 16

Lecture 16

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Adiabatic approximation
Adiabatic approximation

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Published by: Physicist91 on Dec 05, 2012
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Lecture 16


Adiabatic Approximation

This concept is already met in our treatment of hydrogen molecular ion (where nuclei move much slower than electrons, and hence electrons are assumed to be always at the ground state). In that context adiabatic approximation is also known as the “Born-Oppenheimer” approximation.

What is slow or adiabatic here? – change in Hamiltonian

A slowly changing Hamiltonian:


Expanding our time-evolving state using the instantaneous eigenstates of H[λ(t)] at time t where

plug in Using this expansion, now try to solve the time-dependent Schrodinger equation

continued on next slide

Continuing the previous slide

Taking the inner product with
next let’s try to re-express this term

To re-express

, use again the eigenvector equation:

Taking the time derivative

Taking the inner product with

Let H act on the left

continued on the next slide



If the spectrum is non-degenerate, then


Now if

(if compared with the level spacing. Caution: this is a very very loose point!)

Then the above highlighted term can be negligible if the denominator is not too small.

next slide

Adiabatic Approximation

So Cm becomes independent of Cm’ (0) if m’ = m. is a real variable

So if the change in the Hamiltonian is sufficiently slow, our adiabatic approximation predicts the following:
If the initial state is an eigenstate of H[λ(0)], and hence At time t,

dynamical phase

geometry phase

Clearly, the evolving state remains to be the kth eigenstate of H[λ(t)], with its overall phase given by a dynamic phase plus a geometric phase.

Why is one of the phases called the geometric phase ?

Clearly, this phase factor is determined entirely by the path taken by the adiabatic process in the λ-parameter space. It does not depend upon exactly how slowly the system is moving along this parameter path. Hence a geometry origin !

Classroom Exercise:

Show that if the eigenfunction along a path in the parameter space is always real, then the geometric phase must be zero.

But what are the precise conditions for Adiabatic Approximation? What do you mean by “sufficiently slow”? Not trivial !!!

Corrections to the adiabatic approximation:

Starting from the general equation we derived before:

(by plugging in adiabatic-approximation results, we will have corrections! If the corrections are small, then the adiabatic Approximation will be a good approximation.
adiabatic approximation results

Classroom Discussion
With the understanding that the solution Initial condition

is approximate, Berry recently asked a reversed question:

If I really want this to be the exact solution of a time-dependent system, what should I do?

Concluding remarks:
Adiabatic approximation can be understood rather easily and intuitively (the kth eigenstate remains the kth eigenstate if the Hamiltonian is changing slowly). This picture can be very useful. In deriving the adiabatic approximation, we assumed that energy levels are always non-degenerate. Geometric phase in adiabatic processes is a profound concept. It actually helped people to re-visit fundamental aspects of classical mechanics and led to the discovery of Hannay’s angle (see you in PC5210!) as the classical analog of the quantum geometric phase.

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