# 9.7: Hard Sphere Scattering

Let us test out this scheme using a particularly simple example. Consider scattering by a hard sphere, for which the potential is infinite for , and zero for . It follows that is zero in the region , which implies that for all . Thus,

(995) |

for all . It follows from Equation (988) that

Consider the partial wave, which is usually referred to as the -wave. Equation (996) yields

(997) |

where use has been made of Equations (962)-(963). It follows that

The -wave radial wave function is

(999) |

The corresponding radial wavefunction for the incident wave takes the form

(1000) |

It is clear that the actual radial wavefunction is similar to the incident wavefunction, except that it is phase-shifted by .

Let us consider the low and high energy asymptotic limits of . Low energy corresponds to . In this limit, the spherical Bessel functions and Neumann functions reduce to:

(1001) | ||

(1002) |

where . It follows that

(1003) |

It is clear that we can neglect , with , with respect to . In other words, at low energy only -wave scattering (i.e., spherically symmetric scattering) is important. It follows from Equations (938), (979), and (998) that

(1004) |

for . Note that the total cross-section

(1005) |

is *four times* the *geometric cross-section* (i.e., the cross-section for classical particles bouncing off a hard sphere of radius ). However, low energy scattering implies relatively long wavelengths, so we do not expect to obtain the classical result in this limit.

Consider the high energy limit . At high energies, all partial waves up to contribute significantly to the scattering cross-section. It follows from Equation (981) that

With so many values contributing, it is legitimate to replace by its average value . Thus,

(1007) |

This is *twice* the classical result, which is somewhat surprizing, because we might expect to obtain the classical result in the short wavelength limit. For hard sphere scattering, incident waves with impact parameters less than must be deflected. However, in order to produce a ``shadow'' behind the sphere there must be scattering in the forward direction (recall the optical theorem) to produce destructive interference with the incident plane wave. In fact, the interference is not completely destructive, and the shadow has a bright spot in the forward direction. The effective cross-section associated with this bright spot is which, when combined with the cross-section for classical reflection, , gives the actual cross-section of .

### Contributors

- Richard Fitzpatrick (Professor of Physics, The University of Texas at Austin)