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Laser Physics, Vol. 15, No. 2, 2005, pp. 275281.

Original Text Copyright 2005 by Astro, Ltd. Copyright 2005 by MAIK Nauka /Interperiodica (Russia).

STRONG FIELD PHENOMENA

Spin-Induced Forces and Three-Dimensional Exact Solutions of the Dirac Equation for Laser-Driven Relativistic Electrons
J. San Roman, L. Roso*, and L. Plaja
Departamento de Fsica Aplicada, Universidad de Salamanca, E-37008 Salamanca, Spain
*e-mail: roso@aida.usal.es Received September 2, 2004

AbstractWe present computed exact solutions to the three-dimensional Dirac equation describing an electron driven by a strong short-frequency laser pulse. The method is based on a collection of Volkov solutions, including the four components of the relativistic Dirac electron, and, thus, includes all the quantum-relativistic features included in the single-particle Dirac equation, the lower components of the wavefunction, positive charge dynamics, Zitterwebegung, etc. Therefore, complete information on spin dynamics is included in the solutions. In particular, we have been able to see the change in the electrons expected position due to the spin forces. They are a clear evidence of such forces, and this is the rst exact study on how these spin forces modify the expected trajectory of the laser-driven electron. In particular, for the case of a linearly polarized laser eld, the spininduced force may change the typical planar trajectory expected from the relativistic Lorentz equation. For the linearly polarized case, when the spin of the electron is initially oriented along the direction of the laser magnetic eld, the electron still follows the plane indicated by the Lorentz equation, and when the spin of the electron is initially perpendicular to the laser magnetic eld, the spin force drives the electron out of that plane.

1. INTRODUCTION The motion of a relativistically driven electron is a fundamental problem in laser physics. It is well-known that the classical trajectory of a relativistic electron as given by the Lorentz force for the case of a linearly polarized laser eld is a plane trajectory. The plane is dened by the polarization and the propagation direction. When boosting this trajectory to the average rest frame, the typical gure-eight motion is evident [1]. In the quantum-relativistic context, the electron dynamics is governed by Dirac wave equation, and the spin of the electron also plays a role in the motion of the driven electron. The spin couples to the electromagnetic eld associated to the laser and generates a force that depends on the orientation of the spin. Of course, this force for the electron is much smaller than the coupling of the electrical charge to the laser eld. What is relevant to the spin force is that, for certain spin orientations, it can slightly deect the electron from the Sarachik and Schappert gure-eight motion [1]. As a consequence, the electron (or, strictly speaking, the expected value of the electrons position) can move apart from the nonquantum plane of the trajectory. Thus, the gure-eight is no longer so; rather, it looks in relativistic quantum mechanics like a peculiar helix that depends on the orientation of the spin. Moreover, there is no possibility, at least to our knowledge, of predicting a three-dimensional motion under these circumstances with the classical theory. This is not so in the quantum context. It was found recently by Walser and Keitel [2] that a quantum electron in the presence of a linearly polarized electromagnetic eld can have a three-dimensional motion due to

the spineld interaction. This result was obtained by using the nonrelativistic limit [3] of the Foldy Wouthuysen transformation of the Dirac equation [4]. They found a special initial conguration of the spin of the particle such that the three-dimensional motion was induced due to what they called the spin force. This type of phenomena that is related to the spin must appear naturally by solving the Dirac equation [5], because it includes all the relativistic effects besides the spin of the particle and all the spineld interactions. For a general problem, it is not possible to solve the Dirac equation, but the relativistic free driven electron is one of a few systems that have exact analytical solutions for the Dirac equation, namely, the Volkov solutions [68]. Moreover, we can represent a localized driven electron by constructing Volkov wavepackets [911], which constitute a much more realistic system. With these wavepackets, we will be able to calculate numerically the exact three-dimensional evolution of the expectation value of the position operator, in order to evaluate how it is affected by the spineld coupling. Unfortunately, it is very difcult to obtain closed analytical expressions for those expectation values directly from the Dirac equation. For this reason, some simplications of the equation, such as the FoldyWouthuysen transformation [4], have been chosen as a rst step instead of the complete Dirac equation, as we have mentioned above. Although this is the only possibility for nding analytical expressions for this problem, this description has some approximations, namely, neglecting the eld retardation and highorder 1/c corrections, which come from the Foldy Wouthuysen transformation and which could compromise the result.

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In this paper, we nally prove the existence of the spin force by computing the exact solutions to the Dirac equation describing a three-dimensional electron interacting with a superstrong ultrashort-wavelength laser pulse. This wavepacket has nontrivial features, one of which is the presence of the spin-induced force of the type predicted by Walser and Keitel. All of the present results are exact three-dimensional solutions of the Dirac equation, without any restriction on the energy of the electron. Although we are considering analytical solutions, the results need considerable numerical effort. The price we must pay is the absence of an atomic structure: we are not able to compute the Coulomb eld of the atomic core. However, for ultrastrong elds, this is not as restrictive as it might appear, because the Coulomb barrier is suppressed well below the onset of relativistic effects, and then the electron behaves as a free particle when the peak intensity arrives. Therefore, the key point if our technique is going to be close to experiment is to consider a realistic initial electronic wavepacket for the released electron (which can be obtained even in the nonrelativistic domain). The motion of this initial wavepacket can be monitored with the present technique. However, the frequencies and intensities needed to account for the spin dynamics lie well beyond presently available lasers. 2. EXACT SOLUTIONS OF THE DIRAC EQUATION FOR AN ELECTROMAGNETIC PLANE-WAVE PULSE We study the Dirac equation for a free electron interacting with an electromagnetic eld. Let us remember the structure of the Dirac equation in the presence of an external eld: q - i ------- -- A ( x ) mc ( x ) = 0. x c

obtained the second-order solutions, he forced them to fulll the rst-order Dirac equation, obtaining some conditions for certain terms. This second step assures that the solutions correspond to the rst-order Dirac equation. Most of the work by Volkov was done only monochromatic waves. An important improvement in the study of the Volkov problem, moving it out of the monochromatic regime, appeared in the 1960s after the discovery of the laser. Brown and Kibble [7] presented in a very compact form the Volkov solutions for an e.m. eld pulse and applied them to the study of the Compton scattering. A.I. Nikishov and V.I. Ritus [8] simultaneously found exactly the same compact generalization of the Volkov solutions and applied it to obtain the probability of different processes, such as the radiation of a photon from an electron, pair production by photons, and others. Both papers employ a very compact form of the Volkov functions to describe an arbitrary time prole of a plane-wave laser eld. It must be remarked that Volkov, in his 1935 paper [6], pointed out the possibility of including a polychromatic electromagnetic eld. In any case, the method used by Brown and Kibble and Nikishov and Ritus ends with a much more compact form of the solution. Their procedure is very similar to the one developed to obtain the monochromatic Volkov solutions. The onlythough very importantdifference is the dependence of the vector potential, which, in the present case, is assumed to be A (0, A()), where = (s x) and s (1, s) is a fourvector whose spatial component, s, is a unitary vector in the direction of propagation of the e.m. eld. Due to the transversality of the e.m. eld, (s A) = 0, and, due to the unitarity of s, (s s) = 0. Bearing in mind the definition of , it is possible to nd the following four solutions:
r p ( t,

(1)

x) =

The external eld was introduced in the equation by the four-vector A following the minimal coupling prescription. In our particular case, the four-vector potential represents the electromagnetic (e.m.) eld associated with the laser. Moreover, we have to keep in mind that the electron is assumed to be far from the nucleus, so the Coulomb scalar potential does not appear. The assumption of the absence of the nucleus, together with the possibility of expressing the e.m. eld without a scalar potential, leads to the possibility of writing the external eld only in terms of the three-dimensional vector potential, namely, A = (0, A). The calculation of the solutions to Eq. (1) with A(x) = (0, A(x)) was rst done by D.M. Volkov [6] 25 years before the laser was discovered. Volkov found the solutions of Eq. (1) from the second-order Dirac equation following a very intelligent scheme. He knew that the second-order Dirac equation has extra solutions that do not verify the rstorder Dirac equation. For that reason, after having

r qsA ( ) r iS mc ---------------- 1 + -------------------- w ( p )e , 3 2c ( s p ) (2) ( 2 ) E r = 1, 2, 3, 4, 2

with
rp x S = --------sx

q ( A ( ' ) p ) r q A ( ' ) ----------------------------- -------------------------- d'. 2 c(s p) 2 c (s p)

(3)

Here, p is the canonical four-momentum with xed modulus ( pp = m2c2); the w r(p), where r = 1, 2, 3, 4, are the four possible solutions of the Dirac equation for a free particle of momentum p. Details on our procedure for studying such Volkov wavepacket dynamics can be found in [911]. It is important to remark that the only restriction on the application of those solutions is the need for a denite propagation direction. There is no assumption made regarding the time prole, and the procedure can be applied to arbitrarily short pulses.
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277 y, au 30

3. THREE-DIMENSIONAL SOLUTIONS OF THE DIRAC EQUATION: SPIN DYNAMICS To calculate solutions to the Dirac equation describing a relativistic three-dimensional electron driven by a strong laser pulse, we consider Volkov wavepackets of the type ( t, x ) =
r

20

r = 1

dpc ( p )
r

r p ( t,

x ),

(4)
10

where p (t, x) is the well-known Volkov spinor for a general electromagnetic eld pulse [68]. As was already pointed out [9, 10], once we have set a particular initial condition we can calculate the appropriate coefcients cr(p) for representing the time evolution of such an electron. We use the following initial condition for the wavepacket: ( t 0, x ) = Ne
x -------2 2d
2

10

a
r' = 1

r'

q = 0 ( t 0, x ),

r'

(5)
20

where ar' represents the contribution of each r' Volkov wave function. We have chosen a linearly polarized plane-wave pulse of the form A(s x) (0, A0 f (s x)cos(k(s x))uy), where s (1, s); s is a unitary vector in the propagation direction, which, in this case, is taken to be the x direction, and f(s x) is the pulse shape, which is assumed to be a sine squared: f (s x) 0, s x < + x 0 , (6) 2 ( s x x0 ) = cos -- ------------------------ , + x 0 s x + x 0 , 2 0, s x > + x , 0 where x0 and are the center and the pulse length, respectively, at the initial time t0. To compute the exact evolution of the three-dimensional Volkov wavepacket, we have to calculate rst the coefcients corresponding to initial condition (5). Following [10], we obtain the following: c pz c p 4 c ( p ) = a + a ------------------ + a ------------------ g ( p ), 2 2 E + mc E + mc c p+ c pz 2 2 3 4 c ( p ) = a + a ------------------ a ------------------ g ( p ), 2 2 E + mc E + mc
1 1 3

30 0 x, au 10 20 30

Fig. 1. Typical evolution of a Volkov wavepacket shown in the plane of the classical trajectory (solid line) in the presence of an electromagnetic eld of frequency 2.0 au and amplitude of the vector potential 10000 au The initial condition of Eq. (5) corresponds to d = 2 au and a1 = a4 = 1, and a2 = a3 = 0. The negative energy components move only in the opposite direction and follow the classical trajectory of a positively charged particle (dashed line).

where we have dened p = px ipy , and 1 E + mc p d g ( p ) = ------ ------------------ exp ------------- , 2E 2 S with S =
2 2 2

(8)

4 r=1

r 2

c pz c p 1 2 3 c ( p ) = a ------------------ + a ------------------ + a g ( p ), 2 E + mc 2 E + mc
3

(7)

c p+ c pz 4 1 2 4 c ( p ) = a ------------------ a ------------------ + a g ( p ), 2 E + mc 2 E + mc
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The typical time evolution of a Volkov wavepacket in a linearly polarized ultrastrong laser eld is shown in Fig. 1 in the plane of the classical trajectory (and, thus, for a projection in which the spin-induced force does not play any signicant role). Besides the free expansion of the wavepacket, there is squeezing due to the combination of the relativistic Lorentz contraction and the retardation of the laser pulse that moves the leading part of the packet with a slightly different phase than the rear part. This typical structure is more clearly shown in Fig. 2 for three given times. Such a structure

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SAN ROMAN et al.

y x x

y x

E k

Fig. 2. Snapshots of the evolution of the Volkov wavepacket shown in Fig. 1. Each shot is shown in perspective (upper row) and as contour plots (lower row). Plots on the left correspond to the initial condition, and the side of the box is 8 au Plots in the middle correspond to a later time, where the side of the box is 9 au (due to the free expansion of the electron wavepacket). Plots on the right correspond to a much later time, where the side of the box is 16 au The squeezed appearance of the wavepacket is due to a combination of the relativistic Lorentz contraction and the propagating-eld retardation.

is also possible for the 800-nm Ti:Sa wavelength at feasible relativistic intensities. In the Ti:Sa case, for this squeezed structure to be seen, it would be necessary to start with a sufciently broad initial wavepacket (i.e., by ionizing a Rydberg state). To analyze the spin-induced forces appearing in the wavepacket dynamics, it is necessary to move to extraordinarily high elds, and it is also necessary to consider the expected value of the position out of the classical plane. In all of them, we are using a linearly polarized electromagnetic eld of frequency 2 au and amplitude 10000 au of the vector potential. We should point out here that this means that the maximum amplitude of the electric eld is ~7.5 109 V/cm, which is well below the critical amplitude of the electric eld for spontaneous pair creation (EC ~ 1.6 1016 V/cm [12]). This ensures that the process of pair creation is negligible in our case and, as a consequence, that the one-particle theory that we are using is valid. For those high-frequency ultrastrong laser parameters and with linear polarization, we select three different orientations of the spin of the initial wavefunction. To study the deviation of the trajectory from the classical plane, we consider x to be the propagation direction, y to be the electric eld polarization direction, and z to be the magnetic eld polarization direction, and, there-

fore, we simply consider the deviation of the expected value of the electron position along the z direction. In other words, we focus on the z component of the expectation value of the position operator. In the absence of spin-induced forces, z = 0, so it can be used as a good indicator of the tiny effect of the spinlaser interaction. The rst case that we shall study consists of initial wave function (5) with coefcients a1 = 1 and a2 = a3 = a4 = 0. This case represents an electron with the spin oriented very close to the positive z direction. We have to remember that the spin of a relativistic quantum particle is not a conserved quantity, even for a moving free particle. In any case, and although we have nonzero contributions from other orientations of the spin, the expectation value of the different components of the spin operator S /2 at the beginning of the evolution indicates that this initial state is very close to an eigen state of z /2 with the eigenvalue + /2. In the same way, we shall study an initial wave function with coefcients a1 = a2 = 1 and a3 = a4 = 0, which means that the initial state is very close to an eigenstate of x /2 with the eigenvalue + /2, and also an initial wave function with coefcients a1 = 1, a2 = i, and a3 = a4 = 0, which
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SPIN-INDUCED FORCES AND THREE-DIMENSIONAL EXACT SOLUTIONS

279 (a)

represents a state very close to an eigenstate of y /2 with the eigenvalue /2. A comparison of the expecta tion value of the position operator, x , for these three different cases with the classical trajectory obtained from the Lorentz equation is shown in Fig. 3. As can be observed in Fig. 3, if the spin is initially in the z direction (Fig. 3a), which means that the spin is parallel to the magnetic eld, we observe very good agreement between the classical trajectory and the evolution of the expectation value of the position operator of the wavepacket. In this case, we conclude that there is no spin-induced force affecting the electron in the z direction, which is the perpendicular direction to the polarizationpropagation plane. In contrast, for the case of an electron with its spin initially oriented in the x (Fig. 3b) and in the y direction (Fig. 3c), that is, in the propagation and the polarization direction, respectively, we observe a deviation in the evolution of both magnitudes. For these two cases, we see that the wavepacket moves out of the polarizationpropagation plane due to some force that will be proven in the next section to be spin-induced. We should remark that the dynamics obtained when the spin is initially oriented in the propagation direction, which is shown in the middle picture of Fig. 4, coincides qualitatively with the result obtained by Walser and Keitel [2]. On the other hand, the same model applied to the last case, an electron with spin oriented in the polarization direction, results in planar motion instead of the three-dimensional motion present in the exact Dirac evolution (lower picture in Fig. 4). The origin of this difference will be presented and discussed in the next section, where a complete description of the effect will be presented. It is possible [17] to understand the origin and characteristics of the spin-induced force following the procedure outlined by Walser and Keitel [2]. Their initial point for the study of the spin force is the Foldy Wouthuysen transformation of the Dirac Hamiltonian of a particle interacting with an external eld [4], which can be found in several textbooks [13, 14]. For the particular case of an electron in the presence of an electromagnetic eld, there is no transformation able to eliminate all the terms that mix positive and negative energy contributions of the equation, as occurs in the free case.

y 20

20 0

0.001 z 0

0.001 0 20 x 40 y 20 20 0 60 (b)

0.001 z 0

0.001 0 20 x y 20 20 0 40 60 (c)

0.001
Fig. 3. Trajectory of a classical electron (thin black line) in the presence of an electromagnetic eld of frequency 2.0 au and amplitude of the vector potential 10000.0 au, and the expectation value of the position operator for the Volkov wavepacket (thick gray line) with initial condition (5) with d = 15.0 au and in the presence of the same electromagnetic eld. The different pictures represent distinct initial spin orientations. Figures (a), (b), and (c) correspond to an electron with spin initially oriented in the z, x, and y directions, respectively. The scale of the cube is in atomic units. Observe the necessity of a wide zoom in the vertical direction due to the weakness of this effect. LASER PHYSICS Vol. 15 No. 2 2005

0.001 0 20 x 40 60

280 spin 0.4 0.2 0 0.2 0.4

SAN ROMAN et al.

s(0) = sz

x-components spin y-components spin z-components spin

0.4 0.2 0 0.2 0.4

s(0) = sx

is not a conserved quantity, and it can rotate in time. To conrm this, in Fig. 4 we show the evolution in time of the expectation value of each component of the spin for the three different cases that we are studying. The bottom picture corresponds to the most surprising case; in this case no coupling is expected for the initial spin orientation. As can be observed in the bottom picture of Fig. 4, the x component of the spin, although it was zero at the beginning, became nonzero during the interaction. It is then clear that the assumption of the time independence of x is not correct, especially in this case. Therefore, it is necessary to somehow include the time dependence of the spin in any simplied model of the spin-induced force. 4. CONCLUSIONS We have reviewed our method for exactly computing the three-dimensional evolution of a Dirac particle in the presence of a plane-wave electromagnetic pulse. It is based on the construction and evaluation of the evolution of three-dimensional Volkov wavepackets for arbitrary eld proles. Due to the natural inclusion of all the relativistic dynamics of the particle and its spin, this representation turns out to be appropriate. In particular, we have used it here to study the interaction of a linearly polarized external electromagnetic eld with the spin of the particle, thus proving the appearance of a spin-induced force that changes the typical planar motion obtained classically from the Lorentz equation. We have demonstrated that, if the spin of the electron is initially oriented in the direction of the magnetic eld, the electron follows the planar dynamics predicted by the Lorentz equation. In contrast, if the spin is included in the plane perpendicular to the magnetic eld, then a spin force appears that takes the electron out of the polarizationpropagation plane. In particular, when the spin is aligned with the electric eld polarization direction, then the deviation of the classical trajectory plane comes from the time-dependent oscillation induced in the spin. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This work has been partially supported by the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnologa (FEDER funds, grant no. BFM2002-00033) and the Junta de Castilla y Len (grant no. SA107/03). REFERENCES
1. E. S. Sarachik and G. T. Schappert, Phys. Rev. D 1, 2738 (1970). 2. M. W. Walser and C. H. Keitel, J. Phys. B: At. Mol. Opt. Phys. 33, L221 (2000). 3. This non-relativistic limit consists of an expansion in power series of 1/mc2 to (kinetic energy/mc2)3 and (kinetic energy)(eld energy)/m2c4 order.
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0.4 0.2 0 0.2 0.4

s(0) = sy

87

90

93

96

99

102 105 Time, au

Fig. 4. Time evolution of the expectation value of the components of the spin operator during interaction with the electromagnetic plane-wave pulse. The top picture corresponds to a Volkov wavepacket representing an electron with the spin initially oriented in the z direction (parallel to the magnetic eld). The middle picture corresponds to a quantum electron with the spin oriented along the propagation direction (x direction), and the bottom one corresponds to a quantum electron with the spin in the negative y direction (the direction of the electric eld). The parameters of the laser eld and the Volkov wavepacket are the same as in Fig. 3.

The only possibility then is to develop a nonrelativistic expansion in a power series of 1/mc2 of the transformed Hamiltonian and keep only terms through a xed order. We are not going to present this in detail now, because we prefer to focus on the exact numerical solutions of the Dirac equation. Details of an elaborated Foldy Wouthuysen model for approximating this dynamics and understanding the origins of this force for an arbitrary orientation of the initial spin of the electron can be found in [17]. The clue for the generalization of the Walser and Keitel model [2] to an arbitrary orientation of the spin is obtained by inspecting the evolution of the spin itself. In the presence of the strong laser pulse, spin

SPIN-INDUCED FORCES AND THREE-DIMENSIONAL EXACT SOLUTIONS 4. L. L. Foldy and S. A. Wouthuysen, Phys. Rev. 78, 29 (1950). 5. P. A. M. Dirac, Proc. R. Soc. London, Ser. A 117, 610 (1928); 118, 351 (1928). 6. D. M. Wolkow, Z. Phys. 94, 250 (1935). 7. L. S. Brown and T. W. B. Kibble, Phys. Rev. [Sect. A] 133, 705 (1964). 8. A. I. Nikishov and V. I. Ritus, Zh. Eksp. Teor. Fiz. 46, 776 (1964) [Sov. Phys. JETP 19, 529 (1964)]. 9. Julio San Roman, Luis Roso, and Howard R. Reiss, J. Phys. B: At. Mol. Opt. Phys. 33, 1869 (2000). 10. Julio San Roman, Luis Plaja, and Luis Roso, Phys. Rev. A 64, 063402 (2001).

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11. J. San Roman, PhD Thesis (Univ. de Salamanca, 2002). 12. D. L. Burke et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 79, 1626 (1997). 13. J. D. Bjorken and S. D. Drell, Relativistic Quantum Mechanics (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1964; Nauka, Moscow, 1978). 14. W. Greiner, Relativistic Quantum Mechanics. Wave Equations, 2nd ed. (Springer, Berlin, 1997). 15. V. Bargmann, L. Michel, and V. L. Telegdi, Phys. Rev. Lett. 2, 435 (1959). 16. J. D. Jackson, Classical Electrodynamics, 3rd ed. (Wiley, New York, 1999; Inostrannaya Literatura, Moscow, 1965). 17. J. San Roman, L. Roso, and L. Plaja, J. Phys. B: At. Mol. Opt. Phys. 37, 435 (2004).

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2005