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Physics LibreTexts

10: Scattering Theory

Almost everything we know about nuclei and elementary particles has been discovered in scattering experiments, from Rutherford’s surprise at finding that atoms have their mass and positive charge concentrated in almost point-like nuclei, to the more recent discoveries, on a far smaller length scale, that protons and neutrons are themselves made up of apparently point-like quarks.

  • 10.1: Scattering Theory
    The simplest model of a scattering experiment is given by solving Schrödinger’s equation for a plane wave impinging on a localized potential. A potential V(r) might represent what a fast electron encounters on striking an atom, or an alpha particle a nucleus. Obviously, representing any such system by a potential is only a beginning, but in certain energy ranges it is quite reasonable, and we have to start somewhere!
  • 10.2: More Scattering Theory - Partial Waves
    We are considering the solution to Schrödinger’s equation for scattering of an incoming plane wave in the z -direction by a potential localized in a region near the origin. We are, obviously, interested only in the outgoing spherical waves that originate by scattering from the potential, so we must be careful not to confuse the pre-existing outgoing wave components of the plane wave with the new outgoing waves generated by the potential.
  • 10.3: Scattering Amplitudes, Bound States, Resonances
    In this section, we examine the properties of the partial-wave scattering matrix .
  • 10.4 Identical Particles: Symmetry and Scattering
    To construct wave functions for three or more fermions, we assume first that the fermions do not interact with each other, and are confined by a spin-independent potential, such as the Coulomb field of a nucleus. The Hamiltonian will then be symmetric in the fermion variables.

Thumbnail: Collimated homogeneous beam of monoenergetic particles, long wavepacket which is approximately a planewave, but strictly does not extend to infinity in all directions, is incident on a target and subsequently scattered into the detector subtending a solid angle. The detector is assumed to be far away from the scattering center. Image used with permission (Department of Physics Wiki @ Florida State University).