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Journal Article

On refractive processes in strong laser field quantum electrodynamics


Di Piazza,  Antonino
Division Prof. Dr. Christoph H. Keitel, MPI for Nuclear Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Di Piazza, A. (2013). On refractive processes in strong laser field quantum electrodynamics. Annals of Physics, 338, 302-318. doi:10.1016/j.aop.2013.09.007.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0014-9CE7-B
Refractive processes in strong-field QED are pure quantum processes, which involve only external photons and the background electromagnetic field. We show analytically that such processes occurring in a plane-wave field are all characterized by a surprisingly modest net exchange of laser photons even at ultrarelativistic laser intensities. We obtain this result by a direct calculation of the transition matrix element of an arbitrary refractive QED process and accounting exactly for the background plane-wave field. A simple physical explanation of this modest net exchange of laser photons is provided, based on the fact that the laser field couples with the external photons only indirectly through virtual electron-positron pairs. For stronger and stronger laser fields, the pairs cover a shorter and shorter distance before they annihilate again, such that the laser can transfer to them an energy corresponding to only a few photons. These results apply to both optical and x-free electron lasers, and are relevant for upcoming experiments aiming to test strong-field QED at present and next-generation facilities.