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Momentum spectra of the produced particles in a time-dependent
electric field
Takashi Arai

Theory Center, High Energy Accelerator Research
Organization (KEK), Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-0801, Japan
(Dated: December 24, 2013)
Abstract
We study the particle creation in a time-dependent electric field in scalar quantum electrodynam-
ics. Noting the gauge degree of freedom, we define asymptotic particles which do not distinguish
between the canonical momentum of asymptotic mode functions and the kinetic one. Based on this
definition, we consider the two cases where the dynamical pair creation and Schwinger mechanism
respectively dominate each other, and identify the parameter regions of the theory in each case.
Furthermore, analytical expressions for the total number of produced particles and the vacuum-
to-vacuum persistent amplitude for the case where the Schwinger mechanism dominates. In our
study, one can mention to the particle creation in a uniform electric field concentrating on the case
of large time-interval of the applied electric field. It is found that the Schwinger’s result is not
reproduced without an unrealistically strong electric field which is much stronger than the critical
field strength.

araitks@post.kek.jp
1
I. INTRODUCTION
The particle creation from the vacuum by an external electric field is a common phe-
nomenon in quantum field theory. This phenomenon was first studied by Schwinger in a
spatially homogeneous uniform electric field [1], which is now known as the Schwinger mech-
anism, and then the study was extended to electric fields with various time-dependences.
For example, the particle creation in a spatially homogeneous single pulse of an electric
field was studied [2, 3], and the methods in treating the particle creation in an arbitrary
time-dependent electric field were developed [4–6]. Since the time-dependent pulsed electric
field is an idealized form of the electric field realized in two-colliding laser beams, the par-
ticle creation in an alternating electric field was studied for a more realistic situation [7, 8].
However, it was found that the creation rate of the Schwinger mechanism is exponentially
suppressed by the mass of the produced particle, and an unrealistically strong electric field
is necessary for the actual observation of this phenomenon. Thus, this phenomenon has
never been observed experimentally. Therefore, it is still unclear that to what extent the
prediction of the theory captures the actually physics of the particle creation.
However, the study of the particle creation in strong electric fields has now attracted
attention again, due to the recent development of the strong laser technique where the
electric field is going to become close to the critical value of the Schwinger mechanism.
Quite recently, it is found that the threshold of the critical electric field can be lowered
by the superposition of two pulsed electric field with different frequencies, which is called
dynamically assisted Schwinger mechanism, and the particle creation can be observable in
the electric field below the critical strength [9–11]. Furthermore, it is indicated that the
Schwinger mechanism is testable indirectly in a condensed matter system of the graphene
single monolayer [12–14], where the electrons inside are approximately described by the
massless pseudo-relativistic Dirac equation.
In this paper, we study a formal aspect of the particle creation in a spatially homogeneous
time-dependent electric field. Generally, a time-dependent electric field necessarily gives
rise to a gap in the constant term of the vector potential between in and out asymptotic
regions even though the electric field asymptotically vanishes, and this constant term affects
the dispersion relation of the asymptotic mode functions. In other words, the canonical
momentum of the asymptotic mode functions does not coincide with the kinetic momentum
2
due to the constant term of the vector potential. This fact complicates the interpretation
of obtained results. In fact, in a preceding study, the canonical momentum is confused with
the momentum which a particle possesses because of its motion [14]. Moreover, in our point
of view the discrepancy of the two momenta leads not only an erroneous interpretation but
also the incorrect result that the momentum spectra of the produced particles do not depend
on the momentum in the direction of the applied electric field [2, 15].
Therefore, in this paper we propose the method for remedying the dispersion relation of
asymptotic mode functions, noticing the gauge degree of freedom. We define the asymptotic
particles isolating the constant term of the vector potential which we cannot set to zero
at in and out asymptotic regions simultaneously using the gauge degree of freedom of the
vector potential itself. Then, we revisit the total number of the produced particles and the
vacuum-to-vacuum transition amplitude on the basis of this particle picture. Furthermore,
we mention to the particle creation in a constant electric field concentrating our attention
on the case where the applied electric field has large time-interval. It is shown that in reality
the momentum spectra depend on the direction of the applied electric field in the case of a
constant electric field.
For a realistic situation which is related to actual experimental observations, one has to
consider a fermionic field, but it is sufficient to consider a scalar field for our purpose of
seeing how our prescription works. Therefore in this paper, we consider scalar quantum
electrodynamics in a single pulse of an electric field to circumvent technical complexities.
We use the Bogoliubov transformation between in and out asymptotic particles to treat the
particle creation by an external field. In this paper, the quantum effect of the electromagnetic
interaction is ignored in a similar way to the most of the preceding studies.
This paper is organized as follows. In Sec. II, we construct mode expansions of the quan-
tum field, and derive the Bogoliubov transformation for asymptotic particles. We propose
our prescription which isolates the constant term of the vector potential noticing the gauge
degree of freedom. In Sec. III, we consider the specific cases where the Schwinger mechanism
and the dynamical pair creation respectively dominate each other, and investigate the pa-
rameter region of the theory and the characteristic feature of the produced particles in each
case. We mention to the particle creation in a constant electric field in Sec. IV concentrating
on the case of the broad time-interval of the applied electric field. Furthermore, analytic
expressions for the total number of the produced particles and the vacuum-to-vacuum tran-
3
sition amplitude are derived for the case where the Schwinger mechanism dominates. Sec. V
is devoted to Conclusions. In this paper, we use the unit system of = c = 1, and the
signature of the metric (+−−−).
II. BOGOLIUBOV TRANSFORMATION BETWEEN ASYMPTOTIC PARTI-
CLES
In this paper, we consider a complex scalar field theory with the Lagrangian given by
S[φ] =
_
d
4
x[η
µν

µ
φ


ν
φ −m
2
φ

φ], (1)
where ∇
µ
is the covariant derivative, ∇
µ
φ = (∂
µ
−ieA
µ
)φ, and A
µ
is an external gauge field.
The equation of motion for the field φ is given by
[∂
2
−ie∂
µ
A
µ
−2ieA
µ

µ
−e
2
(A
µ
)
2
+ m
2
]φ(x) = 0. (2)
Now, we consider the behavior of the field φ in a spatially homogeneous single pulse of an
external electric field, given by E(t) = E cosh
−2
Ωt. This electric field is realized by the
following vector potential,
A
1
= A
2
= 0, (3)
A
3
=
E

(1 + tanh Ωt), (4)
where we take the gauge condition as A
0
= 0, and set lim
t→−∞
A
3
(t) = 0 without loss of
generality. In this gauge potential, the equation of motion reads
[∂
2
t
−∂
2
i
+ 2ieA
3

3
+ e
2
(A
3
)
2
+ m
2
]φ(x) = 0. (5)
Using the Fourie transformation in the spatial direction, φ(x) =
_
d
3
k
(2π)
3
φ(k)e
ik·x
, one can
transform the equation of motion to
_

2
t
+p
2
−2p
3
eE

(1 + tanh Ωt) +
(eE)
2

2
(1 + tanh Ωt)
2
+ m
2
_
φ(p) = 0. (6)
This equation can be solved as a hypergeometric differential equation [2]. In fact, we change
the time variable as u =
1
2
(1 + tanhΩt), then the equation is transformed to
_
u
2
(1 −u)
2
d
2
du
2
+ u(1 −u)(1 −2u)
d
du
+
1
4
p
2
+ m
2

2

2
4
p
3

2eE

2
u +
1
4
_
2eE

2
_
2
u
2
_
φ(p) = 0.
(7)
4
Furthermore, if we set
φ(p) = u
a
(1 −u)
b
f(u), (8)
where
a = −
i
2
ω

, (9)
b =
i
2
ω
+

, (10)
ω = [m
2
+p
2
]
1
2
, (11)
ω
±
=
_
m
2
+ p
2

+ (p
3

2eE

)
2
_1
2
, (12)
and p

is a momentum perpendicular to the applied electric field, p
2

= p
2
1
+p
2
2
, f(u) satisfies
the following differential equation,
_
u(1 −u)
d
2
du
2
+ [1 + 2a −u(2 + 2a + 2b)]
d
du
−(a + b + 2ab) +
1
4
_
2p
2

2

2p
3

2eE

2
_
_
f(u) = 0.
(13)
This is precisely the form of the hypergeometric differential equation
_
z(1 −z)
d
2
dz
2
+ [γ −(α + β + 1)z]
d
dz
−αβ
_
f(z) = 0, (14)
with
α =
1
2
+ a + b +
i
2
c, (15)
β =
1
2
+ a + b −
i
2
c, (16)
γ = 1 + 2a, (17)
c =
_
_
2eE

2
_
2
−1
_1
2
. (18)
Thus, the field φ can be expanded in terms of independent solutions of the hypergeometric
differential equation.
In this paper, we define the asymptotic particles using the asymptotic form for the mode
expansions at t → ±∞. First, in the case of the in region t → −∞, we use the two
independent solutions which are regular at u = 0. Then, the field is expanded as
φ(x) =
_
d
3
p
(2π)
3
1


_
a
p
_
u
a
(1 −u)
b
2
F
1
(α, β, γ; u)
¸
(p)
+ b

−p
_
u
−a
(1 −u)
b
2
F
1
(1 + α −γ, 1 + β −γ, 2 −γ; u)
¸
(p)
_
e
ip·x
,
(19)
5
where [· · · ](p) denotes that a and b in [· · · ] are evaluated about the momentum p. The mode
expansion has the following asymptotic form at t →−∞,
φ(x) ∼
_
d
3
p
(2π)
3
1


_
a
p
e
−iωt+ip·x
+ b

p
e
iωt−ip·x
¸
, (20)
which coincides with that of free field. Therefore, when we quantize the scalar field imposing
the canonical commutation relation, [φ(x), π(x

)] = iδ
3
(x −x

), where π(x) is the canonical
momentum variable conjugates to φ(x), the coefficients, a
p
and b

p
, are interpreted as the
creation and annihilation operators for the particles and antiparticles which satisfy [a
p
, a

p

] =
[b
p
, b

p

] = (2π)
3
δ
3
(p −p

). We define the vacuum state at t →−∞by the condition a
p
|0
in
=
b
p
|0
in
= 0.
Next, in the case of the out region t →∞, we expand the field in terms of two independent
solutions which are regular at u = 1,
φ(x) =
_
d
3
p
(2π)
3
1


+
_
˜ c
p
_
u
a
(1 −u)
b
2
F
1
(α, β, 1 + α + β −γ; 1 −u)
¸
(p)
+
˜
d

−p
_
u
a
(1 −u)
−b
2
F
1
(γ −α, γ −β, 1 + γ −α −β; 1 −u)
¸
(p)
_
e
ip·x
.
(21)
Then, it is tempting to interpret that the coefficients, ˜ c
p
and
˜
d

−p
are the creation and
annihilation operators at the out region in a similar way. However, this interpretation
makes a complex situation. In fact, the mode expansion has the following asymptotic form
at t →∞,
φ(x) ∼
_
d
3
p
(2π)
3
1


+
_
˜ c
p
e
−iω
+
t
+
˜
d

−p
e

+
t
¸
e
ip·x
. (22)
Thus, the asymptotic mode functions have the dispersion relation different to that of the
free field, ω
+
= [m
2
+ p
2

+ (p
3

2eE

)
2
]
1
2
. In a preceding study, this fact is represented as
the discrepancy between the canonical momentum, which is the momentum of the Fourie
expansion of the field e
ip·x
, and the kinetic momentum which a particle possesses because
of its motion. This abnormal feature comes from the constant term of the vector potential.
In fact, if we consider a theory with the vector potential A
3
= a
3
= const., the equation of
motion reads
_

2
t
−∂
2
i
+ 2iea
3

3
+ e
2
(a
3
)
2
+ m
2
¸
φ(x),
=
_

2
t
−∂
2

−(∂
3
−iea
3
)
2
+ m
2
¸
φ(x) = 0,
(23)
where we set ∂
2

= ∂
2
1
+∂
2
2
. In this way, the constant term of the vector potential affect the
dispersion relation of the mode functions.
6
In general, when we consider a time-dependent electric field, a gap in the constant term
of the vector potential between in and out asymptotic regions necessarily develops, even
though the electric field asymptotically vanishes. Therefore, one cannot set A
3
= 0 at in
and out asymptotic regions simultaneously using the gauge degree of freedom of A
3
. In
our case for example, the gauge degree of freedom of A
3
is already used to set A
3
= 0 at
t →−∞, we cannot set A
3
= 0 at t →∞. However, the abnormal dispersion relation gives
rise to the complex situation. Moreover, since the constant term of the vector potential is
intrinsically the gauge degree of freedom, one can think of this term as the degree which
does not contribute to the physics.
Therefore in this paper, we propose the prescription for isolating the constant term as a
gauge phase. In fact, one can transform Eq. (23) to that of the free field by isolating the
gauge constant as a phase factor φ(x) = e
iea
3
x
3
ϕ(x),
e
iea
3
x
3
_

2
t
−∂
2
i
+ m
2
¸
ϕ(x) = 0. (24)
By the same prescription to Eq. (21), the mode expansion at t →∞ is given as follows,
φ(x) =
_
d
3
p
(2π)
3
1


_
c
p
_
u
a
(1 −u)
b
2
F
1
(α, β, 1 + α + β −γ; 1 −u)
¸
(p +
2eE

)
+ d

−p
_
u
a
(1 −u)
−b
2
F
1
(γ −α, γ −β, 1 + γ −α −β; 1 −u)
¸
(p +
2eE

)
_
e
ip·x
e
i
2eE

x
3
.
(25)
This has the same asymptotic form at t → ∞ as that of the free field, Eq. (20). Thus, we
interpret the coefficients of the mode expansion of the field ϕ(x), c
p
and d

p
, as the creation
and annihilation operators of the particle and antiparticle at the asymptotically out region.
That is, when one impose the canonical commutation relation, [φ(x), π(x

)] = iδ
3
(x −x

),
the ladder operators satisfy [c
p
, c

p

] = [d
p
, d

p

] = (2π)
3
δ
3
(p −p

). We define the vacuum
state at the asymptotically out region as c
p
|0
out
= d
p
|0
out
= 0.
These ladder operators at in and out regions are related to each other by the Bogoliubov
transformation. In fact, the identities of the hypergeometric function,
2
F
1
(α, β, γ; z) =
Γ(γ)Γ(γ −α −β)
Γ(γ −α)Γ(γ −β)
2
F
1
(α, β, α + β + 1 −γ; 1 −z)
+
Γ(γ)Γ(α + β −γ)
Γ(α)Γ(β)
(1 −z)
γ−α−β
2
F
1
(γ −α, γ −β, 1 + γ −α −β; 1 −z),
(26)
7
2
F
1
(α, β, γ; z) = (1 −z)
γ−α−β
2
F
1
(γ −α, γ −β, γ; z), (27)
enable us to transform the mode expansion at the in region to the following way,
φ(x) =
_
d
3
p
(2π)
3
1


_
_
a
p
Γ(γ)Γ(γ −α −β)
Γ(γ −α)Γ(γ −β)
+ b

−p
Γ(2 −γ)Γ(γ −α −β)
Γ(1 −α)Γ(1 −β)
_
(p)
_
u
a
(1 −u)
b
2
F
1
(α, β, α + β + 1 −γ; 1 −u)
¸
(p)
+
_
a
p
Γ(γ)Γ(α + β −γ)
Γ(α)Γ(β)
+ b

−p
Γ(2 −γ)Γ(α + β −γ)
Γ(1 + α −γ)Γ(1 + β −γ)
_
(p)
_
u
a
(1 −u)
−b
2
F
1
(γ −α, γ −β, 1 + γ −α −β; 1 −u)
¸
(p)
_
e
ip·x
.
(28)
Shifting the momentum variable as p
3
→p
3
+
2eE

and comparing the expression to the mode
expansion at the out region Eq. (25), one can read the Bogoliubov transformation as follows,
c
p
=
_
ω
ω

_
a
p+
2eE

Γ(γ)Γ(γ −α −β)
Γ(γ −α)Γ(γ −β)
+ b

−(p+
2eE

)
Γ(2 −γ)Γ(γ −α −β)
Γ(1 −α)Γ(1 −β)
_
(p +
2eE

),
d

−p
=
_
ω
ω

_
a
p+
2eE

Γ(γ)Γ(α + β −γ)
Γ(α)Γ(β)
+ b

−(p+
2eE

)
Γ(2 −γ)Γ(α + β −γ)
Γ(1 + α −γ)Γ(1 + β −γ)
_
(p +
2eE

),
(29)
where the shift of the momentum a
p+2eE/Ω
is understood to be taken only in the direction
of the applied electric field. If we express the Bogoliubov coefficients by α
p
and β
p
as
c
p
= α
p
a
p+ea
3
+ β

p
b

−(p+ea
3
)
,
d

−p
= β
p
a
p+ea
3
+ α

p
b

−(p+ea
3
)
,
(30)
the concrete expressons for α
p
and β
p
are given by
α
p
=
_
ω
ω

Γ(1 −i
ω


)Γ(−i
ω

)
Γ(
1
2

i
2
(
ω



+ c))Γ(
1
2

i
2
(
ω



−c))
, (31)
β
p
=
_
ω
ω

Γ(1 −i
ω


)Γ(i
ω

)
Γ(
1
2

i
2
(
ω

−ω

+ c))Γ(
1
2

i
2
(
ω

−ω

−c))
. (32)
These coefficients satisfy |α
p
|
2
− |β
p
|
2
= 1. In general, the coefficient β
p
does not become
zero, and the creation and annihilation operators at in and out regions are mixed by the
Bogoliubov transformation. Thus, one finds that the in vacuum does not coincide with the
out vacuum, and the particle creation occurs due to the external electric field.
8
III. MOMENTUM SPECTRUM OF THE PRODUCED PARTICLES
After we have introduced the new definition of asymptotic particles, we investigate the
particle creation in detail on the basis of this particle picture. We consider the situation
where the state is the in vacuum |0
in
at the in region t →−∞. Then, the expected number
of the produced particle with the momentum p at the out region t → ∞, is given by the
vacuum expectation value of the operator c

p
c
p
about the state |0
in
,
in
0|c

p
c
p
|0
in
=|β
p
|
2
(2π)
3
δ
3
(p = 0),
N
p
=
(2π)
3
δ
3
(p = 0)
in
0|c

p
c
p
|0
in
,
=|β
p
|
2
,
(33)
where V = δ
3
(p = 0)/(2π)
3
is the total volume of space and N
p
represents the number of the
produced particle per unit volume. In our case, the concrete expression for the distribution
of the produced particles is given by

p
|
2
=
sin π(
1
2
+
i
2
(
ω

−ω

+ c)) sin π(
1
2
+
i
2
(
ω

−ω

−c))
sinh π
ω


sinh π
ω

,
=
sinh
2 π
2
c + cosh
2 π
2
(
ω

−ω

)
sinh π
ω


sinh π
ω

.
(34)
And from the expression for α
p
,

p
|
2
=
sin π(
1
2
+
i
2
(
ω



+ c)) sin π(
1
2
+
i
2
(
ω



−c))
sinh π
ω


sinh π
ω

,
=
sinh
2 π
2
c + cosh
2 π
2
(
ω



)
sinh π
ω


sinh π
ω

,
(35)
we see that the coefficients satisfy the property of the Bogoliubov transformation |α
p
|
2


p
|
2
= 1. This distribution coincides with that of the preceding study reexpressed by the
kinetic momentum [3, 14, 16]. Furthermore, the same expression is found in Ref. [17], where
the gauge condition is set to A
3
= 0 at t → ∞. This distribution is asymmetry about the
momentum in the direction of the applied electric field. We now investigate the characteristic
feature of this distribution in detail.
In a time-dependent electric field, it is known that there are two mechanisms for the
particle creation. One is the mechanism that the virtual charged particles are accelerated due
to the electric field to the energy to become real particles, which is known as the Schwinger
9
mechanism. This process can be understood as some kind of tunneling process, and is a
nonperturbative phenomenon. So one cannot derive this phenomenon by the perturbative
expansion of the classical external field A
µ
(x). The other is the particle creation caused by
the oscillation energy of the electric field, called the dynamical pair creation. This process is
a multi-photon process that the virtual charged particles gain the energy by the scattering
of external photons, and a perturbative phenomenon. In other words, the particle creation
occurs due to the effects of the switching on and off of the applied electric field. And so, in
this paper we consider the situations where these two mechanisms dominate each other, and
investigate the parameter regions of the theory and characteristic features of the produced
particles in each case.
First, we consider the case where the dynamical pair creation dominates. In this case,
since we consider the Ω being large,
1



−ω) =
1

_
ω
_
1 +
4p
3
ω
eE
ωΩ
+
_
2eE
ωΩ
_
2
_1
2
−ω
_
(36)
can be expanded to the following way, imposing the condition
eE
ωΩ
≪1,
1



−ω) ≃
_
2p
3
ω
+
2eE
ωΩ
_
eE

2
. (37)
Thus, if
eE

2
≪ 1, we can treat
1



− ω) as a small quantity which is sufficiently smaller
than the unity. This condition is satisfied in conjunction with the condition
eE
ωΩ
≪1, when
we impose
ω

≤ O(1). Using this expansion, one can approximate the distribution N
p
as
N
p

[π(
eE

2
)
2
]
2
−[
π
2


−ω)

]
2
sinh
2
π
ω

,

[π(
eE

2
)
2
]
2
−[π[
p
3
ω
+
eE
ωΩ
]
eE

2
]
2
sinh
2
π
ω

.
(38)
In deriving the above approximate expression, we have imposed the conditions,
eE
ωΩ
≪1,
ω

≤ O(1). (39)
These conditions can be understood physically. First
eE

expresses the energy which a particle
can obtain in theory due to an acceleration by the electric field during the time-interval of the
applied electric field. Then, the former condition expresses that the obtained energy from
the electric field is larger than the threshold energy for becoming a real particle, and denotes
the situation that the Schwinger mechanism is difficult to occur. On the other hand, the
10
1.0 0.5 0.0 0.5 1.0
0
5. 10
8
1. 10
7
1.5 10
7
2. 10
7
2.5 10
7
3. 10
7
3.5 10
7
p
3
N
p
0.6
0.5
0.4
FIG. 1. Momentum spectrum of the produced particles by the dynamical pair creation with
eE
m
2

=
1
40
, and all in the units of m

. The number of the produced particles becomes smaller as
the frequency becomes smaller. Thus, it finds that the particle creation is caused by the oscillation
energy of the applied electric field.
latter condition expresses that the oscillating energy of the electric field is not lower than the
energy of the produced particle, and denotes the situation that the dynamical pair creation
is easy to occur. Thus, these conditions Eq. (39) are the condition that the dynamical pair
creation dominates the Schwinger mechanism. In fact, the approximate expression for the
distribution is given the polynomial of the small quantities, thus indicates that the particles
are produced by the perturbative mechanism of the dynamical pair creation. The schematic
picture of the distribution is shown in Fig. 1. The distribution is almost symmetric about the
direction of the applied electric field. This fact can be found from the expression Eq. (34),
where the origin is located at p
3
= −
eE

which is very small under the condition
eE

2
≪1.
Next, we consider the case where the Schwinger mechanism dominates. In this case,
since we concentrate our attention on small Ω, the hyperbolic function in Eq. (34) will
be approximated as the exponetial function because of the large argument. In fact, the
denominator in Eq. (34) can be approximated to the exponential function, if we impose the
condition,
m


≫1, (40)
where m
2

= m
2
+ p
2

. For the numerator in Eq. (34), we consider each cases depending on
the value of p
3
. Now, the distribution is symmetric about p
3
= −
eE

, in the following we
consider only the case, p
3
≥ −
eE

. This corresponds to ω

> ω.
11
First, we consider the case where p
3
is in the region −
eE

≤ p
3
< −m

. Then, if we
impose the condition,
eE
m


≫1, (41)
the expression
1



−ω) =
1

_
_
p
3
+
2eE

__
1 +
m
2

(p
3
+
2eE

)
2
_1
2
−|p
3
|
_
1 +
m
2

p
2
3
_1
2
_
(42)
can be expanded as
1



−ω) =
2eE

2

2|p
3
|


m
2


1
|p
3
|(
2eE

−|p
3
|)
_
eE

−|p
3
|
_
. (43)
Since the contribution from the last two terms is always smaller than −1, we see that the
dominant contribution in the numerator of the distribution Eq. (34) comes from sinh
2 π
2
c.
Next, in the case where p
3
is in the region −m

≤ p
3
≤ |O(m

)|, the expression
1



−ω)
can be expanded in the following way, under the same condition
eE
m


≫1,
ω

−ω


2eE

2
+
p
3

+
m
2

4eE

ω

,

2eE

2
+
p
3


ω

,
=
2eE

2

¸
¸
¸O(
m


)
¸
¸
¸ ,
(44)
where in the second line, we utilized the fact that
m



m
2

eE
which comes from the condition
eE
m


≫ 1. In a similar way, the last term is smaller than −1, and we find that the term
sinh
2 π
2
c is dominant in the numerator in Eq. (34) in this region of p
3
.
We have imposed the two condition,
m


≫1 and
eE
m


≫1. From this condition,
eE

2
=
eE
m


m


≫1 (45)
is automatically satisfied. Therefore, the term sinh
2 π
2
c can be approximated as the expo-
nential function. Thus, in each region of p
3
, the distribution can be approximately expressed
as
N
p
= e
−π(ω

+ω−c)
. (46)
In the case where p
3
is in the region p
3
> |O(m

)|, we find that the distribution N
p
is much
smaller than that of in the region −
eE

≤ p
3
≤ O(m

). Thus, we simply omit the case.
12
The distribution Eq. (46) can be further expanded in each region of p
3
. First, in the
region −
eE

≤ p
3
< −m

,
1



+ ω) −c is expanded as follows,
ω

+ ω

−c ≃
m
2

2Ω
1
|p
3
|(
2eE

−|p
3
|)
2eE

,

m
2

eE
1
(1 +
δp
3

eE
)(1 −
δp
3

eE
)
,
(47)
where we have used p
3
= −
eE

+ δp
3
. Furthermore, if
δp
3

eE
is smaller than unity,
ω

+ ω

−c ≃
m
2

eE
_
1 +
_
δp
3

eE
_
2
_
.
(48)
That is, the distribution is expressed as the gaussian distribution function about δp
3
.
Next, we consider the case where p
3
is in the region −m

≤ p
3
≤ |O(m

)|. In this case,
1



+ ω) −c is expanded as
ω

+ ω

−c =
m
2

4eE
+
p
3

+
ω

,
=
m
2

4eE
+
O(m

)

.
(49)
Since the condition
m
2

eE

m


hold, we find that the distribution is always exponentially
suppressed relative to the peak value, and sufficiently small.
In summary of the above analysis, the distribution is approximately given by
N
p
=e

πm
2

eE
1
(1+
δp
3

eE
)(1−
δp
3

eE
)
,
≃e

πm
2

eE
[1+(
δp
3

eE
)
2
]
.
(50)
Note here that as p
2

being larger, the condition
eE
m


≫ 1 does not satisfied. However
in these cases, N
p
is already sufficiently damped, and in what follows we assume that the
approximate expression for N
p
Eq. (50) is valid over all momenta.
Now the approximate expression Eq. (50) can be used to identify the width of the dis-
tribution. Both the expressions indicate that the width will reach the order O(
eE

) for the
first time when the magnitude of the electric field approaches the critical value
eE
m
2

∼ 1.
From the above consideration, we find the characteristic feature of the distribution that N
p
is distributed between −
2eE

< p
3
< 0 with the peak amplitude given by N
p
= e

πm
2

eE
, and
the width is determined by the strength of the external field
eE
m
2

. The distribution becomes
13
20 15 10 5 0
0.0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
p
3
N
p

eE

m

0.8
m

0.6
m

0.4
FIG. 2. Momentum spectrum of the produced particles by the Schwinger mechanism with
eE

2
=
100, and all in the units of

eE. As the strength of the field becomes stronger the width of the
distribution becomes broader, but exponentially damps as p
3
reaches both ends p
3
= −
2eE

, 0.
Thus, the produced particles are always distributed between p
3
= −
2eE

and p
3
= 0.
constant about p
3
with the width given by
2eE

when the electric field is unrealistically strong
eE
m
2

≫1. These observations are numerically verified in Fig. 2.
The parameter region where the Schwinger mechanism dominates has been given by
eE
m


≫1,
m


≫1. (51)
These conditions are consistent with an intuitive picture in a similar way to the dynamical
pair creation. That is, the former shows that the Schwinger mechanism is easy to occur,
and the latter shows that the dynamical pair creation is difficult to occur. Note especially
that the ease of the occurrence of the Schwinger mechanism is not given by
eE
ωΩ
but
eE
m


which does not depend on p
3
. This may reflect the characteristic feature of the produced
particles by the Schwinger mechanism. That is, in the Schwinger mechanism particles are
first always produced with zero momentum in the direction of the applied electric field
p
3
= 0. Then, these particles are accelerated to one way due to the applied electric field to
form the asymmetric distribution between −
2eE

≤ p
3
≤ 0. Especially in the strong electric
field
eE
m
2
≫ 1, the particles with zero momentum p
3
= 0 are produced constantly in time,
and they form the uniform distribution from −
2eE

to 0.
14
IV. IMPLICATIONS TO THE CONSTANT ELECTRIC FIELD
The case with small Ω in our analysis where the Schwinger mechanism dominates corre-
sponds to the particle creation in a static electric field, which is adiabatically turned on and
off. Therefore we can infer to the particle creation in a static electric field from our result.
In the preceding study, it was found that the produced particle distribution is given by
N
p
= e

πm
2

eE
. That is, the distribution does not depend on the momentum in the direction
of the applied field. In some literatures, this result is interpreted as a consequence of the
infinite acceleration due to the electric field with an infinite time-interval [15]. On the other
hand, in our result the distribution does not become p
3
independent. However, as is seen
in what follows we can understand that the p
3
independence in the preceding study comes
from an inappropriate manipulation in taking the limit of infinity about the time-interval
and the momentum p
3
.
First, if one uses the canonical momentum to express the distribution as in the case of
the preceding study, one obtains a symmetric distribution about the origin p
3
= 0. When
one takes the large time-interval here, then the width of the distribution becomes broader
and broader, and reaches a constant distribution in the limit of infinity T =
1

→ ∞.
Thus, one is subject to judge that the distribution N
p
becomes p
3
independent. However, in
our particle picture, which does not distinguish between the canonical momentum and the
kinetic momentum, the distribution is asymmetric where the origin is located at p
3
= −
eE

.
In this case, when we take the limit of a large time-interval, the width becomes broader
and broader, but this is generally much narrower than O(
eE

), and at the same time the
origin of the distribution get further away from p
3
= 0. Thus, even if we take the limit
T → ∞, one has to take into account the wide range of the momentum p
3
larger than
O(
eE

), and the distribution never be constant over this momentum region. Therefore, we
argue that the result of the preceding study is an incorrect result which is a consequence of
the inappropriate manipulation of the limit T →∞ with p
3
fixed finite, and only expresses
the feature of the distribution in a finite narrow range of the actual momentum spectrum.
Since the actual distribution is not p
3
independent, different results to the preceding
study will be obtained in the calculations such as the total number of the produced particle
and the vacuum-to-vacuum transition amplitude, where one has to integrate out about p
3
.
The exception is the case of unrealistically strong fields
eE
m
2
≫1. It is because in this case the
15
distribution becomes constant, and thus the influence of the p
3
dependence will not appear.
In fact, in the strong field
eE
m
2
≫ 1, the distribution can be approximated as constant
about p
3
, N
p
= e

πm
2

eE
, over the interval −
2eE

≤ p
3
≤ 0. Then, first the total number of the
produced particles N is calculated to
N =
_
d
3
pN
p
,
=
_
d
2
p

_
0

2eE

dp
3
N
p
,
=
2(eE)
2

e

πm
2
eE
.
(52)
In a similar way, the vacuum-to-vacuum transition amplitude is calculated to
P
v
= |
out
0|0
in
|
2
=e

V
(2π)
3

d
3
p ln(1+Np)
,
=e

V
(2π)
3


n=1
(−1)
n+1
n

d
3
pN
n
p
,
≡e

d
4
xw
,
(53)
_
d
4
xw =
V
(2π)
3
2(eE)
2

n=1
(−1)
n+1
n
2
e

nπm
2
eE
. (54)
These results coincide with the bosonic version of the Schwinger’s results, if we interpret the
time-interval of the applied electric field T as T =
2

.
However, in a general strength of the electric field, the Schwinger’s results are not re-
produced anymore. To see this, we first consider the case of the weak field
eE
m
2
≪ 1, where
the gaussian distribution approximation N
p
= e

πm
2

eE
(1+(
δp
3

eE
)
2
)
is valid. When δp
3
does not
satisfy the condition
δp
3

eE
≪ 1, this approximation is not applicable. However, under the
condition of the weak field
eE
m
2
≪ 1, the distribution is exponentially damped before δp
3
reaches the inapplicable regions. Therefore, in the weak field case this approximation is a
good approximation over all momentum p
3
. In this case, the integral
_
d
3
pN
n
p
is calculated
to
_
d
3
pN
n
p
=
_
d
2
p

dp
3
e

nπ(m
2
+p
2

)
eE
(1+(
δp
3

eE
)
2
)
,
=
(eE)
2
nΩ
e

nπm
2
eE
_

−∞
d(δ˜ p
3
)(δ˜ p
2
3
+ 1)
−1
e

nπm
2
eE
δ˜ p
2
3
,
(55)
where we have defined the dimensionless variable δ˜ p
3
=
δp
3

eE
. This expression is transformed
to the complementary error function erfc(z), by the (3.466, 1) in Ref. [18],
_
d
3
pN
n
p
=
(eE)
2
nΩ
πerfc(
_
nπm
2
eE
). (56)
16
Using the asymptotic expansion for the complementary error function, erfc(x) =
e
−x
2
x

π
[1 −
1
2x
2
+ . . . ], one can express the total number of the produced particles and the vacuum-to-
vacuum transition amplitude as follows,
N =
(eE)
2

πerfc(
_
πm
2
eE
),

(eE)
2

_
eE
m
2
_1
2
e

πm
2
eE
,
(57)
P
v
= e

d
4
xw
, (58)
_
d
4
xw =
V
(2π)
3

n=1
(−1)
n+1
n
2
(eE)
2

πerfc(
_
nπm
2
eE
),

V
(2π)
3
(eE)
2

_
eE
m
2
_1
2

n=1
(−1)
n+1
n
5
2
e

nπm
2
eE
.
(59)
Thus, we find that the Schwinger’s results are not reproduced anymore in the weak field case
eE
m
2
≪1. If we take the n = 1 term in the summation of the Eq. (59) in the case of
eE
m
2
≪1
due to the exponential suppression, both the total number of the produced particles and
the vacuum-to-vacuum transition amplitude are (
eE
m
2
)
1
2
times smaller than the Schwinger’s
results.
If not the case
eE
m
2
≪ 1, the gaussian distribution approximation is not valid anymore.
More general expression is given by the form N
p
= e

πm
2

eE
[(1+
δp
3

eE
)(1−
δp
3

eE
)]
−1
. This expression
is exponentially damped as the momentum p
3
reaches each ends p
3
= −
2eE

, 0. Therefore,
we assume that the use of the above expression, delimited the interval as −
2eE

≤ p
3
≤ 0, is
a good approximation. Then, the integral
_
d
3
pN
n
p
is calculated to
_
d
3
pN
n
p
=
_
0

2eE

dp
3
_
d
2
p

e

nπm
2

eE
1
(1+
δp
3

eE
)(1−
δp
3

eE
)
,
=
(eE)
2
nΩ
2
_
1
0
d(δ˜ p
3
)[(1 + δ˜ p
3
)(1 −δ˜ p
3
)]e

nπm
2
eE
1
(1−δ˜ p
3
)(1+δ˜ p
3
)
.
(60)
The change of the variable
1
(1+δ˜ p
3
)(1−δ˜ p
3
)
= t enables us to further transform the expression
to
_
d
3
pN
p
=
(eE)
2
nΩ
_

1
dtt

5
2
(t −1)

1
2
e

nπm
2
eE
t
. (61)
This integral can be converted to a Whittaker function W
λ, µ
(z) by the formula (3.383, 4)
in Ref. [18],
_
d
3
N
n
p
=
π(eE)
2
nΩ
_
nm
2
eE
_1
2
e

nπm
2
2eE
W
−1,1
(
nπm
2
eE
). (62)
17
Thus, the total number of the produced particles and the vacuum-to-vacuum transition
amplitude are respectively given by
N =
π(eE)
2

_
m
2
eE
_1
2
e

πm
2
2eE
W
−1,1
(
πm
2
eE
), (63)
P
v
= e

d
4
xw
, (64)
_
d
4
xw =
V
(2π)
3
π(eE)
2

_
m
2
eE
_1
2

n=1
(−1)
n+1
n
3
2
W
−1,1
(
nπm
2
eE
)e

nπm
2
2eE
. (65)
Now, let us check the validity of these expressions. First, in the weak field case
eE
m
2
≪1,
using the asymptotic expansion for a Whittaker function with small
eE
m
2
, W
λ, µ
(z) ∼ e

z
2
z
λ
(1+
µ
2
−(λ−
1
2
)
2
z
+ . . . ), we find
_
d
3
pN
n
p

(eE)
2
n
3
2

_
eE
m
2
_1
2
e

nπm
2
eE
. (66)
Thus, the expression for N and
_
d
4
xw exactly coincide with those of the gaussian ap-
proximation. Next, in the strong field case
eE
m
2
≫ 1, the asymptotic form, W
λ, µ
(z) ∼
Γ(2µ)
Γ(
1
2
+µ−λ)
z
−µ+
1
2
e

z
2
, [ µ > 0 ], can be used to calculate the total number of the produced
particles as
N =
4
3
(eE)
2

e

πm
2
eE
. (67)
This expression agrees with the Schwinger’s result by the interpretation of the time-interval
T =
1

O(1). Thus, the general approximation, N
p
= e

πm
2

eE
[1−δ˜ p
2
3
]
−1
, is a good approximation
over all values of
eE
m
2
.
In our result obtained by the gaussian distribution approximation is already derived in
the preceding study [16]. However, the result was interpreted as the time-interval of the
adiabatic field is changed to T =
1

(
eE
m
2
)
1
2
in the weak field regime
eE
m
2
≪ 1, to meet the
Schwinger’s results. Furthermore, it was concluded that in the strong field regime
eE
m
2
∼ 1,
the adiabatic field case does not reproduce the Schwinger’s result. However, we argue that
this conclusion is a consequence of the fact that they use the gaussian approximation beyond
its applicability
eE
m
2
∼ 1. In fact, we use the more general expression N
p
= e

πm
2

eE
[1−δ˜ p
2
3
]
−1
,
and show that the adiabatic field reproduces the Schwinger’s result by contraries in the
strong field case
eE
m
2
≫ 1. Thus, the time-interval of the applied electric field should be
interpreted as T =
1

in the adiabatic field case.
18
From the above consideration, we insist that the result in Eq. (66) should be interpreted
that the total number of the produced particles and the vacuum-to-vacuum transition am-
plitude itself become (
eE
m
2
)
1
2
times smaller rather than the time-interval. Moreover, the
Schwinger’s results are valid only in the case of unrealistically strong fields
eE
m
2
≫ 1 where
the Schwinger mechanism produces the particles constantly in time, and in a general field
strength the Schwinger’s results do not predict the correct behaviors of the particle creation.
Finally, we consider the backreaction of the produced particles. In our particle picture,
where we do not distinguish between the canonical momentum and the kinetic momentum,
we can understand the backreaction intuitively. As can be seen in Appendix, the produced
particles do not produce the charge distribution ρ(x) = j
0
(x), but the electric current in
the direction of the applied electric field,
j
3
= 2e
_
d
3
p
(2π)
3
p
3
ω
N
p
. (68)
This current is interpreted by the following way. Since the charged particle with momentum
p
3
has the velocity −p
3
/ω, it produces the electric current ep
3
/ω in this direction. The total
current is given by the momentum integral, and the factor 2 denotes that the antiparticles
do contribute the same way as the particles.
We now evaluate this current concretely. First, we consider the strong field case which
produces the particles constantly in time. The distribution can be approximated as constant
about p
3
, N
p
= e

πm
2

eE
, over the interval from −
2eE

to 0. Then, the current is calculated as
follows,
j
3
=
2e
(2π)
3
_
d
2
p

_
0

2eE

dp
3
d
dp
3
_
ω
¸
e

πm
2

eE
,
=
2e
(2π)
3
_
d
2
p

e

πm
2

eE
_
_
m
2

_1
2

_
m
2

+
_
2eE

_
2
_1
2
_
.
(69)
Here, since
eE
m


≫1, we take the leading term in the integrand, and the expression is finally
given by
j
3
≃−
2e
(2π)
3
2(eE)
2

e

πm
2
eE
,
=−
2eN
(2π)
3
.
(70)
Thus, the current is proportional to the total number of the produced particles. In the case
of the general expression for N
p
, the dominant contribution in the integral about p
3
comes
19
from the region −
2eE

≪ p
3
≪ 0, and near the both ends N
p
is exponentially damped.
So we may approximate
p
3
ω
≃ −1 in the integral. Then, the current is also expressed as
j
3
≃ −2eN/(2π)
3
. Since the N grows linearly in time-interval of the applied field, the
current also linearly grows in time.
V. CONCLUSIONS
In this paper, we elaborated the particle creation from the vacuum in a time-dependent
electric field in scalar quantum electrodynamics. Our definition of the asymptotic particles
which isolates the constant term of the vector potential as a gauge phase makes the canonical
momentum of asymptotic modes the same as the kinetic one. On the basis of this particle
definition, we identified the parameter regions of the theory where the dynamical pair cre-
ation and the Schwinger mechanism respectively dominate. Especially from the parameter
conditions, the characteristic feature of the produced particles by the Schwinger mechanism
is mentioned. That is, in the Schwinger mechanism, the particles with zero momentum in
the direction of the applied electric field are first produced, and then they are accelerated
to one side by the electric field to form the asymmetric distribution with p
3
≤ 0.
The case of the broad time-interval in our analysis corresponds to a constant electric field
which is adiabatically turned on and off, and we can mention to the particle creation in a
constant electric field. As a result, the produced particles distribution generally does not
become constant about the momentum in the direction of the applied electric field. This
result conflicts with the preceding study [2], but the conflict can be explained as the preceding
result only mention to the specific region of the canonical momentum distribution. That
is, it is concluded that in the particle creation in a static electric field there are momentum
regions where the creation and annihilation operators do not mixed by the Bogoliubov
transformation and the particle creation does not occur. These insights are elucidated by
our prescription of the particle definition.
Furthermore, we derive analytical expressions for the various characteristics of the particle
creation such as the vacuum-to-vacuum transition amplitude where the Schwinger mecha-
nism dominates. We demonstrate that the Schwinger’s result is generally not true by the
calculation of these characteristics. The only exception is the case of the unrealistically
strong electric field
eE
m
2
≫ 1. In this case, the Schwinger’s result is reproduced, because
20
the particle spectrum becomes a constant distribution over some definite range of the mo-
mentum. However, in a realistic field strength,
eE
m
2
≤ O(1), the Schwinger’s result is not
reproduced. Especially, in the strength
eE
m
2
≪ 1 which is the maximum value which can be
attainable by a nowadays laser technique, the total number of the produced particles and
the vacuum-to-vacuum transition amplitude are (
eE
m
2
)
1
2
times smaller than the Schwinger’s
result. This fact means that the observation of the particle creation in the future experi-
ment is still difficult than we expected before, and the Schwinger mechanism is a phenomena
which becomes observable first the field strength reaches the critical value
eE
m
2
∼ 1.
Appendix: Backreaction of the produced particles
1. Charge density
We define the current j
µ
(x) of the complex scalar field as a functional derivative of the
action with respect to the classical gauge field A
µ
(x) as follows,
j
µ
(x) ≡
δS
δA
µ
(x)
,
=ie[φ


µ
φ −(∇
µ
φ

)φ].
(A.1)
From the expectation value of the current about the in vacuum |0
in
, with some normal
ordering prescriptions, we can evaluate the backreation from the created particles on the
gauge field.
First, we consider the charge distribution ρ(x) of the produced particles at the asymptotic
out region t →∞,
ρ(x) ≡j
0
(x),
=iφ

(x)∂
t
φ(x) −φ(x)∂
t
φ

(x).
(A.2)
At the asymptotic late times, the scalar field is expanded as follows,
φ(x) =
_
d
3
p
(2π)
3
1


_
c
p
e
−iωt
+ d

−p
e
iωt
_
e
ip·x
e
i
2eE

x
3
. (A.3)
Then, the current is calculated to
j
0
(x) =
_
d
3
pd
3
p

(2π)
6
ω

2

ωω

_
_
c

p
e
iωt
+ d
−p
e
−iωt
¸_
c
p
′ e
−iω

t
−d

−p

e


t
¸
+
_
c
p
e
−iωt
+ d

−p
e
iωt
¸_
c

p

e


t
−d
−p
′ e
−iω

t
¸
_
e
−i(p−p

)·x
.
(A.4)
21
Here, the expectation value of the operators, c
p
and d
p
, about the state |0
in
are respectively
given by
c

p
c
p
′ = β
p
β

p
′ (2π)
3
δ
3
(p −p

), (A.5)
c

p
d

−p

= β
p
α

p
′ (2π)
3
δ
3
(p −p

), (A.6)
d
−p
c
p
′ = α
p
β

p
′ (2π)
3
δ
3
(p −p

), (A.7)
d
−p
d

−p

= α
p
α

p
′ (2π)
3
δ
3
(p −p

). (A.8)
And,
c
p
c

p

= α
p
α

p
′ (2π)
3
δ
3
(p −p

), (A.9)
c
p
d
−p
′ = α
p
β

p
′ (2π)
3
δ
3
(p −p

), (A.10)
d

−p
c

p

= β
p
α

p
′ (2π)
3
δ
3
(p −p

), (A.11)
d

−p
d
−p
′ = β
p
β

p
′ (2π)
3
δ
3
(p −p

). (A.12)
From the above relations, the current is calculated to
j
0
(x) =
_
d
3
p
(2π)
3
1
2
_

p
|
2
−β
p
α

p
e
2iωt
+ α
p
β

p
e
−2iωt
−|α
p
|
2
+|α
p
|
2
−α
p
β

p
e
−2iωt
+ β
p
α

p
e
2iωt
−|β
p
|
2
_
= 0.
(A.13)
Thus, the total charge density becomes zero due to the cancellation between the particle
and antiparticle charge density.
2. Electric current
Next, we consider the current j
3
produced by the created particles at the asymptotic
out region t → ∞. At the asymptotic late times, the vector potential becomes A
3
=
2E

,
and the electric current in the direction to the applied electric field is given by
j
3
(x) = −ieφ

(∂
3
−i
2eE

)φ −φ(∂
3
+ i
2eE



.
(A.14)
Then, the current is expanded to
j
3
(x) = e
_
d
3
pd
3
p

(2π)
6
p

3
2

ωω

_
_
c

p
e
iωt
+ d
−p
e
−iωt
¸_
c
p
′ e
−iω

t
+ d

−p

e


t
¸
+
_
c
p
e
−iωt
+ d

−p
e
iωt
¸_
c

p

e


t
+ d
−p
′ e
−iω

t
¸
_
e
−i(p−p

)·x
.
(A.15)
22
This current is calculated in the same way as the charge density to
j
3
(x) =e
_
d
3
p
(2π)
3
p
3

_

p
|
2
+ β
p
α

p
e
2iωt
+ α
p
β

p
e
−2iωt
+|α
p
|
2
+|α
p
|
2
+ α
p
β

p
e
−2iωt
+ β
p
α

p
e
2iωt
+|β
p
|
2
_
,
=e
_
d
3
p
(2π)
3
_
p
3
ω
2|β
p
|
2
+
p
3
ω
β
p
α

p
e
2iωt
+
p
3
ω
α
p
β

p
e
−2iωt
_
,
(A.16)
where in the second line, we have used the relation of the Bogoliubov coefficient, |α
p
|
2


p
|
2
= 1. The time dependent terms of the last two terms in the above expression do not
contribute at the asymptotic out region t →∞. In fact, for example,
_
dp
3
p
3
ω
α
p
β

p
e
−2iωt
=
_
dp
3
α
p
β

p
1
−2it
d
dp
3
e
−2iωt
,
=
_
dp
3
1
2it
d
dp
3

p
β

p
]e
−2iωt
,
(A.17)
where in the second line we omit the total derivative. This expression becomes zero in the
limit t →∞.
Therefore, the current is finally given by
j
3
(x) = 2e
_
d
3
p
(2π)
3
p
3
ω

p
|
2
. (A.18)
This expression is a physically very reasonable result. A particle with momentum p
3
has
a velocity −
p
3
ω
in the direction of x
3
. Therefore, this particle with momentum p
3
produces
the electric current e
p
3
ω
. The number of the produced particles with momentum p
3
is given
by N
p
= |β
p
|
2
, and thus the total current is given by the momentum integral of e
p
3
ω
N
p
.
The factor 2 comes from the contribution of antiparticles which do the same contribution
as particles.
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