Breakdown of agreement between non-relativistic and relativistic quantum dynamical predictions in the non-relativistic regime

Boon Leong Lan, Mehdi Pourzand, Rui Jian Chu

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    2 Citations (Scopus)


    To study quantum dynamics in the non-relativistic regime, the standard practice is to use non-relativistic quantum mechanics, instead of the relativistic theory, because it is thought the approximate non-relativistic result is always close to the relativistic one. Here we present a theoretical argument that this expectation is not true in general. In addition, supporting numerical evidence for the free rotor and hydrogen atom also shows the agreement between the two theories can break down quickly. For the radial Rydberg wave packet in hydrogen atom, the breakdown can occur before spontaneous emission and thus could be tested experimentally. Our surprising result shows relativistic quantum mechanics must be used, instead of the approximate non-relativistic theory, to correctly study quantum dynamics in the non-relativistic regime after the breakdown time. This paradigm shift opens a new avenue of research in a wide range of fields from atomic to molecular, chemical and condensed-matter physics.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)147-152
    Number of pages6
    JournalResults in Physics
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019

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