# 12.2: The Born Approximation

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We can use time-dependent perturbation theory to do an approximate calculation of the crosssection. Provided that the interaction between particle and scattering center is localized to the region around $$r = 0$$, we can regard the incident and scattered particles as free when they are far from the scattering center. We just need the result that we obtained for a constant perturbation, Fermi’s Golden Rule, to compute the rate of transitions between the initial state (free particle of momentum $${\bf p}$$) to the final state (free particle of momentum $${\bf p'}$$).

The Hamiltonian for a single particle being scattered by a fixed potential as

$\hat{H} = \hat{H}_0 + \hat{V} ({\bf r}) \quad \text{ where } \quad \hat{H}_0 = \frac{{\bf \hat{p}}^2}{2m}, \quad \text{ the kinetic energy operator} \nonumber$

and treat the potential energy operator, $$\hat{V} ({\bf r})$$, as the perturbation inducing transitions between the eigenstates of $$\hat{H}_0$$, which are plane waves.

If we label the initial and final plane-wave states $$\Phi_{in} = \text{ exp}(i{\bf k.r}−i\omega t)$$ and $$\Phi_{scat} = \text{ exp}(i{\bf k'.r}−i\omega' t)$$ by their respective wave-vectors, then Fermi’s Golden Rule for the rate of transitions is

$R = \frac{2\pi}{\hbar} |\langle {\bf k}' |\hat{V} |{\bf k} \rangle|^2 g(E_k) \nonumber$

where $$g(E_k)$$ is the density of final states; $$g(E_k)dE_k$$ is the number of final states with energy in the range $$E_k \rightarrow E_k + dE_k$$.

The quantity $$\langle {\bf k}' |\hat{V} |{\bf k} \rangle$$ is known as the matrix element of the perturbation and is usually abbreviated thus

$V_{{\bf k'k}} \equiv \langle {\bf k}' |\hat{V} |{\bf k} \rangle = \int \int \int u^*_{{\bf k'}} ({\bf r}) V ({\bf r})u_{{\bf k}}({\bf r}) d\tau. \nonumber$

The time variation has been suppressed here. For constant potential, the only non-zero terms come from $$\omega = \omega'$$: elastic scattering. For a time oscillating potential (e.g. $$V ({\bf r}) \sin \omega_0 t)$$ the non-zero contribution comes from $$\omega = \omega' \pm \omega_0$$: inelastic scattering where the scattered particle gains/loses a quantum of energy from/to the system providing the potential.

This page titled 12.2: The Born Approximation is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Graeme Ackland via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.