Volume 86, Number 1, April 2009
Article Number 13001
Number of page(s) 5
Section Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics
Published online 17 April 2009
EPL, 86 (2009) 13001
DOI: 10.1209/0295-5075/86/13001

Breakdown of the vacuum by arbitrary external fields

T. Cheng, Q. Su and R. Grobe

Intense Laser Physics Theory Unit and Department of Physics, Illinois State University Normal, IL 61790-4560 USA

received 31 October 2008; accepted in final form 13 March 2009; published April 2009
published online 17 April 2009

We examine the spontaneous breakdown of the matter vacuum triggered by an external force. Based on the multi-particle counting numbers, which are accessible by experiment, we present a general theoretical procedure that permits the computation of the vacuum probability for sub- and super-critical fields with arbitrary spatial and temporal profiles. When the field is supercritical, the theory leads to the expected exponentially decay of the vacuum in the long-time limit. For the special case of an infinitely extended electric force field, we establish the validity of an effective decay constant obtained by averaging the Schwinger rate over the spatial force profile.

31.30.J- - Relativistic and quantum electrodynamic (QED) effects in atoms, molecules, and ions.

© EPLA 2009