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QMSE-01 Quantum Mechanics for Scientists & Engineers
David Miller
Stanford University

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You are on page 1of 18

Slides: Video 7.2.1 Separating the L

squared operator

Text reference: Quantum Mechanics

for Scientists and Engineers

Section 9.2

David Miller

The L2 operator

In quantum mechanics

we also consider another operator

associated with angular momentum

the operator L2

This should be thought of as

the dot product of L with itself

and is defined as

L2 L2x L2y L2z

The L2 operator

It is straightforward to show then that

L2 22 ,

where the operator 2 , is given by

2 ,

1

1 2

sin

2

2

sin

sin

the Laplacian ( 2 ) operator in spherical polar

coordinates

hence the notation

Commutation of L2

L2 commutes with each of Lx , L y , and Lz

It is easy to see from

2

2

,

sin

2

2

sin

sin

on functions or operators depending on alone

Commutation of L2

Of course, the choice of the z direction is arbitrary

We could equally well have chosen the polar axis

along the x or y directions

Then it would similarly be obvious that

L2 commutes with Lx or L y

How can L2 commute with each of Lx , L y , and Lz

but Lx , L y , and Lz do not commute with each other?

Answer

we can choose the eigenfunctions of L2 to be

the same as those of any one of Lx , L y , and Lz

Eigenfunctions of L2

We want eigenfunctions of L2 or, equivalently, 2 ,

and so the equation we hope to solve is of the form

2 , Ylm , l l 1 Ylm ,

We anticipate the answer

by writing the eigenvalue in the form l l 1

but it is just an arbitrary number to be determined

The notation Ylm ,

also anticipates the final answer

but it is just an arbitrary function to be determined

Separation of variables

We presume that the final eigenfunctions can be

separated in the form

Ylm ,

where

only depends on and

only depends on

2

Substituting this form in , Ylm , l l 1 Ylm ,

gives

2

l l 1

sin

2

2

sin

sin

Separation of variables

Multiplying by sin 2 / and rearranging, gives

1

2

2

sin

l l 1 sin

sin

2

whereas the right hand side depends only on

so these must both equal a (separation) constant

Anticipating the answer

we choose a separation constant of m 2

where m is still to be determined

equation

Taking the left hand side of

2

1

sin

2

2

l

l

1

sin

sin

2

we now have an equation

d 2

m 2

d 2

The solutions to an equation like this are of the form

sin m , cos m or expim

equation

For the solutions of

d 2

m 2

d 2

we choose the exponential form expim

so is also a solution of the Lz eigen equation

L m

z

so this wavefunction must repeat every 2 of angle

Hence, m must be an integer

equation

Taking the right hand side of the separation equation

sin

2

2

sin

m

l l 1 sin

Multiplying by / sin 2 and rearranging gives

1 d

d

m2

sin

2 l l 1 0

sin d

d

sin

This is the associated Legendre equation

whose solutions are the associated Legendre functions

Pl m cos

equation

The solutions Pl m cos to this equation

1 d

d

m2

sin

2 l l 1 0

sin d

d

sin

require that

l 0,1, 2,3,...

l m l (m integer)

defined using Rodrigues formula

l m

/2

m

l

1

d

2

2

m

Pl x l 1 x

x 1

l m

2 l!

dx

For example

l=0

1

P ( x) 3 x 2 1

2

0

2

P00 x 1

P10 x x

l=1

P x 1 x

1

1

l=2

2 1/2

1

2 1/2

P x 1 x

2

1

1

P x 3 x 1 x

1

1

2 1/2

P2 x x 1 x

2

P22 x 3 1 x 2

1

2

2 1/2

1

P x 1 x 2

8

2

2

We see that these functions Pl m x have the following

properties

The highest power of the argument x is always xl

The functions for a given l for +m and m are

identical other than for numerical prefactors

Less obviously

between 1 and +1

and not including the values at those end

points

the functions have l m zeros

Eigenfunctions of L2

Putting this all together, the eigen equation is

L2Y , 2l l 1 Y ,

lm

lm

which, after normalization, can be written

Ylm , 1

2l 1 l m ! m

Pl cos exp im

4 l m !

and the eigenvalues are 2l l 1

Eigenfunctions of L2 and Lz

As is easily verified

these spherical harmonics

are also eigenfunctions of the Lz operator

Explicitly, we have the eigen equation

L Y , mY ,

z lm

lm

It makes no difference to the Lz eigenfunctions

if we multiply them by a function of

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