Abraham-Lorentz force

Abraham-Lorentz force

In the physics of electromagnetism, the Abraham-Lorentz force is the recoil force on an accelerating charged particle caused by the particle emitting electromagnetic radiation. It is also called the radiation reaction force.

The formula for the Abraham-Lorentz force is applicable only when the particle is traveling at non-relativistic velocities (that is, much slower than the speed of light); the extension to relativistic velocities is known as the Abraham-Lorentz-Dirac force. In addition, the formula is in the domain of classical physics, not quantum physics, and therefore is not valid at distances of roughly the Compton wavelength ( [http://physics.nist.gov/cgi-bin/cuu/Value?ecomwl λC] ≈ 2.43 pm) or below. [http://wwwphy.princeton.edu/~kirkmcd/examples/EM/rohrlich_ajp_65_1051_97.pdf F. Rohrlich: "The dynamics of a charged sphere and the electron" Am J Phys 65 (11) p. 1051 (1997)] . "The dynamics of point charges is an excellent example of the importance of obeying the validity limits of a physical theory. When these limits are exceeded the predictions of the theory may be incorrect or even patently absurd. In the present case, the classical equations of motion have their validity limits where quantum mechanics becomes important: they can no longer be trusted at distances of the order of (or below) the Compton wavelength…Only when all distances involved are in the classical domain is classical dynamics acceptable for electrons."] (There is, however, an analogue of the formula which is both fully-quantum and relativistic, called the "Abraham-Lorentz-Dirac-Langevin equation". See Johnson and Hu [cite journal|author=PR Johnson, BL Hu|journal=Physical Review D|year=2002|volume=65|title=Stochastic theory of relativistic particles moving in a quantum field: Scalar Abraham-Lorentz-Dirac-Langevin equation, radiation reaction, and vacuum fluctuations|url=http://link.aps.org/abstract/PRD/v65/e065015|doi=10.1103/PhysRevD.65.065015|pages=065015|format=abstract] [ PR Johnson, BL Hu: [http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0101001v2 " Stochastic Theory of Relativistic Particles Moving in a Quantum Field: II. Scalar Abraham-Lorentz-Dirac-Langevin Equation, Radiation Reaction and Vacuum Fluctuations " ] ] and Galley and Hu. [CR Galley and BL Hu (2005); see particularly Section VI "Discussions": [http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0505085v2 "Self-Force with a Stochastic Component from Radiation Reaction of a Scalar Charge Moving in Curved Spacetime"] ] )

The force is proportional to the square of the object's charge, times the so-called "jerk" (rate of change of acceleration) that it is experiencing. The force points in the direction of the jerk. For example, in a cyclotron, where the jerk points opposite to the velocity, the radiation reaction is directed opposite to the velocity of the particle, providing a braking action.

In an antenna, it is responsible for the phenomenon of radiation resistance.

It was thought that the solution of the Abraham-Lorentz force problem predicts that signals from the future affect the present, thus challenging intuition of cause and effect. For example, there are pathological solutions using the Abraham–Lorentz-Dirac equation in which a particle accelerates "in advance" of the application of a force, so-called "preacceleration" solutions! One resolution of this problem was discussed by Yaghjiancite book
author=Arthur D. Yaghjian
title=Relativistic dynamics of a charged sphere: Updating the Lorentz-Abraham model
publisher= Springer
page=Chapter 8
] , and a fuller discussion of its resolution is made by Rohrlich [ [http://wwwphy.princeton.edu/~kirkmcd/examples/EM/rohrlich_ajp_65_1051_97.pdf F. Rohrlich: "The dynamics of a charged sphere and the electron" Am J Phys 65 (11) p. 1051 (1997)] ] , and Medina. [ [http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0508031v3 Rodrigo Medina "Radiation reaction of a classical quasi-rigid extended particle" J. Phys. A: Math. Gen. A39 (2006) 3801-3816] ]

Definition and description

Mathematically, the Abraham-Lorentz force is given by:

::mathbf{F}_mathrm{rad} = frac{mu_0 q^2}{6 pi c} mathbf{dot{a = frac{ q^2}{6 pi epsilon_0 c^3} mathbf{dot{a (SI units)


::mathbf{F}_mathrm{rad} = { 2 over 3} frac{ q^2}{ c^3} mathbf{dot{a (cgs units)

where::F is the force,:mathbf{dot{a is the jerk (the derivative of acceleration, or the third derivative of displacement),: [http://physics.nist.gov/cgi-bin/cuu/Value?mu0 μ0] and [http://physics.nist.gov/cgi-bin/cuu/Value?ep0 ε0] are the permeability and permittivity of free space,: [http://physics.nist.gov/cgi-bin/cuu/Value?c "c"] is the speed of light in free space [The symbol "c"0 is used by CIPM and NIST.] :"q" is the electric charge of the particle.

Note that this formula applies only for non-relativistic velocities; for relativistic velocities, see Abraham-Lorentz-Dirac force.

Physically, an accelerating charge emits radiation (according to the Larmor formula), which carries momentum away from the charge. Since momentum is conserved, the charge is pushed in the direction opposite the direction of the emitted radiation. In fact the formula above for radiation force can be "derived" from the Larmor formula, as shown below.


In classical electrodynamics, problems are typically divided into two classes:

# Problems in which the charge and current "sources" of fields are specified and the "fields" are calculated, and
# The reverse situation, problems in which the fields are specified and the motion of particles are calculated.

In some fields of physics, such as plasma physics and the calculation of transport coefficients (conductivity, diffusivity, "etc."), the fields generated by the sources and the motion of the sources are solved self-consistently. In such cases, however, the motion of a selected source is calculated in response to fields generated by all other sources. Rarely is the motion of a particle (source) due to the fields generated by that same particle calculated. The reason for this is twofold:

# Neglect of the "self-fields" usually leads to answers that are accurate enough for many applications, and
# Inclusion of self-fields leads to problems in physics such as renormalization, some of which still unsolved, that relate to the very nature of matter and energy.

This conceptual problems created by self-fields are highlighted in a standard graduate text. [Jackson]

The difficulties presented by this problem touch one of the most fundamental aspects of physics, the nature of the elementary particle. Although partial solutions, workable within limited areas, can be given, the basic problem remains unsolved. One might hope that the transition from classical to quantum-mechanical treatments would remove the difficulties. While there is still hope that this may eventually occur, the present quantum-mechanical discussions are beset with even more elaborate troubles than the classical ones. It is one of the triumphs of comparatively recent years (~ 1948 - 1950) that the concepts of Lorentz covariance and gauge invariance were exploited sufficiently cleverly to circumvent these difficulties in quantum electrodynamics and so allow the calculation of very small radiative effects to extremely high precision, in full agreement with experiment. From a fundamental point of view, however, the difficulties remain.

The Abraham-Lorentz force is the result of the most fundamental calculation of the effect of self-generated fields. It arises from the observation that accelerating charges emit radiation. The Abraham-Lorentz force is the average force that an accelerating charged particle feels in the recoil from the emission of radiation. The introduction of quantum effects leads one to quantum electrodynamics. The self-fields in quantum electrodynamics generate a finite number of infinities in the calculations that can be removed by the process of renormalization. This has led to a theory that is able to make the most accurate predictions that humans have made to date. See precision tests of QED. The renormalization process fails, however, when applied to the gravitational force. The infinities in that case are infinite in number, which causes the failure of renormalization. Therefore general relativity has unsolved self-field problems. String theory is a current attempt to resolve these problems for all forces.


We begin with the Larmor formula for radiation of a point charge:

:P = frac{mu_0 q^2 a^2}{6 pi c}.

If we assume the motion of a charged particle is periodic, then the average work done on the particle by the Abraham-Lorentz force is the negative of the Larmor power integrated over one period from au_1 to au_2:

:int_{ au_1}^{ au_2} mathbf{F}_mathrm{rad} cdot mathbf{v} dt = int_{ au_1}^{ au_2} -P dt = - int_{ au_1}^{ au_2} frac{mu_0 q^2 a^2}{6 pi c} dt = - int_{ au_1}^{ au_2} frac{mu_0 q^2}{6 pi c} frac{d mathbf{v{dt} cdot frac{d mathbf{v{dt} dt.

Notice that we can integrate the above expression by parts. If we assume that there is periodic motion, the boundary term in the integral by parts disappears:

:int_{ au_1}^{ au_2} mathbf{F}_mathrm{rad} cdot mathbf{v} dt = - frac{mu_0 q^2}{6 pi c} frac{d mathbf{v{dt} cdot mathbf{v} igg|_{ au_1}^{ au_2} + int_{ au_1}^{ au_2} frac{mu_0 q^2}{6 pi c} frac{d^2 mathbf{v{dt^2} cdot mathbf{v} dt = -0 + int_{ au_1}^{ au_2} frac{mu_0 q^2}{6 pi c} mathbf{dot{a cdot mathbf{v} dt.

Clearly, we can identify

:mathbf{F}_mathrm{rad} = frac{mu_0 q^2}{6 pi c} mathbf{dot{a.

Signals from the future

Below is an illustration of how a classical analysis can lead to absurd results. See the quote from Rohrlich in the introduction concerning "the importance of obeying the validity limits of a physical theory".

For a particle in an external force mathbf{F}_mathrm{ext}, we have

: m dot {mathbf{v} } = mathbf{F}_mathrm{rad} + mathbf{F}_mathrm{ext} = m t_0 ddot { mathbfv} + mathbf{F}_mathrm{ext} .


:t_0 = frac{mu_0 q^2}{6 pi m c}.

This equation can be integrated once to obtain

: m dot {mathbf{v} } = {1 over t_0} int_t^{infty} exp left( - {t'-t over t_0 } ight ) , mathbf{F}_mathrm{ext}(t') , dt' .

The integral extends from the present to infinitely far in the future. Thus future values of the force affect the acceleration of the particle in the present. The future values are weighted by the factor

: exp left( -{t'-t over t_0 } ight )

which falls off rapidly for times greater than t_0 in the future. Therefore, signals from an interval approximately t_0 into the future affect the acceleration in the present. For an electron, this time is approximately 10^{-24} sec, which is the time it takes for a light wave to travel across the "size" of an electron.

ee also

*Max Abraham
*Cyclotron radiation
*Radiation resistance
*Radiation damping
*Synchrotron radiation
*Wheeler–Feynman absorber theory


Further reading

*cite book | author=Griffiths, David J.|title=Introduction to Electrodynamics|edition=3rd ed. | publisher=Prentice Hall |year=1998 |id=ISBN 0-13-805326-X See sections 11.2.2 and 11.2.3
*cite book |author=Jackson, John D.|title=Classical Electrodynamics (3rd ed.)|publisher=Wiley|year=1998|id=ISBN 0-471-30932-X
*Donald H. Menzel, "Fundamental Formulas of Physics", 1960, Dover Publications Inc., ISBN 0-486-60595-7, vol. 1, page 345.

External links

* [http://www.mathpages.com/home/kmath528/kmath528.htm MathPages - Does A Uniformly Accelerating Charge Radiate?]
* [http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1965/feynman-lecture.html Feynman: The Development of the Space-Time View of Quantum Electrodynamics]

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