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7.

2 The L squared operator


Slides: Video 7.2.1 Separating the L
squared operator
Text reference: Quantum Mechanics
for Scientists and Engineers
Section 9.2

The L squared operator

Separating the L squared operator

Quantum mechanics for scientists and engineers

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

which is actually the and part of


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

and the form of Lz i

that at least L2 and Lz commute

The operation / has no effect


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

The left hand side depends only on


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

We expect that and its derivative are continuous


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)

The associated Legendre functions can conveniently be


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

Associated Legendre functions


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

Associated Legendre functions


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

with spherical harmonics Ylm , as the eigenfunctions


which, after normalization, can be written

Ylm , 1

2l 1 l m ! m
Pl cos exp im
4 l m !

where l 0,1, 2,3,... , where m is an integer, l m l


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

with eigenvalues of Lz being m


It makes no difference to the Lz eigenfunctions
if we multiply them by a function of