Scattering theory

Encyclopedia

In mathematics

and physics

,

of waves

and particles

. Prosaically, wave scattering corresponds to the collision and scattering of a wave with some material object, for instance sunlight

scattered by rain drops to form a rainbow

. Scattering also includes the interaction of billiard balls on a table, the Rutherford scattering

(or angle change) of alpha particle

s by gold

nuclei

, the Bragg scattering (or diffraction) of electrons and X-rays by a cluster of atoms, and the inelastic scattering of a fission fragment as it traverses a thin foil. More precisely, scattering consists of the study of how solutions of partial differential equations, propagating freely "in the distant past", come together and interact with one another or with a boundary condition, and then propagate away "to the distant future".

The

.

The inverse scattering problem

is the problem of determining the characteristics of an object (e.g., its shape, internal constitution) from measurement data of radiation or particles scattered from the object.

Since its early statement for radiolocation

, the problem has found vast number of applications, such as echolocation

, geophysical survey, nondestructive testing

, medical imaging

and quantum field theory

, to name just a few.

different fields. The object of this section is to point the reader

to common threads.

where Q is an interaction coefficient and x is the distance traveled in the target.

The above ordinary first-order differential equation

has solutions of the form:

where I

λ, the third uses the number of targets per unit volume η to define an area cross-section

σ, and the last uses the target mass density ρ to define a density mean free path τ. Hence one converts between these quantities via Q = 1/λ = ησ = ρ/τ, as shown in the figure at left.

In electromagnetic absorption spectroscopy, for example, interaction coefficient (e.g. Q in cm

, absorption coefficient, and attenuation coefficient

. In nuclear physics, area cross-sections (e.g. σ in barn

s or units of 10

(e.g. in cm

(e.g. λ in nanometers) is often discussed instead.

,

of solutions to partial differential equation

s. In acoustics

, the differential equation is the wave equation

, and scattering studies how its solutions, the sound waves, scatter from solid objects or propagate through non-uniform media (such as sound waves, in sea water, coming from a submarine

). In the case of classical electrodynamics, the differential equation is again the wave equation, and the scattering of light

or radio wave

s is studied. In quantum mechanics

and particle physics

, the equations are those of quantum electrodynamics QED

, quantum chromodynamics QCD

and the Standard Model

, the solutions of which correspond to fundamental particles. In quantum chemistry

, the solutions correspond to atom

s and molecule

s, governed by the Schrödinger equation

.

is particularly instructive, as the theory is reasonably complex while still having a good foundation on which to build an intuitive understanding. When two atoms are scattered off one another, one can understand them as being the bound state

solutions of some differential equation. Thus, for example, the hydrogen atom

corresponds to a solution to the Schrödinger equation

with a negative inverse-power (i.e., attractive Coulombic) central potential. The scattering of two hydrogen atoms will disturb the state of each atom, resulting in one or both becoming excited, or even ionized

. Thus, collision

s can be either elastic

(the internal quantum states of the particles are not changed) or inelastic

(the internal quantum states of the particles are changed). From the experimental viewpoint the observable quantity is the cross section

. From the theoretical viewpoint the key quantity is the S matrix

.

this field consists of the following topics:

, scattering theory deals with a more abstract formulation of the same set of concepts. For example, if a differential equation

is known to have some simple, localized solutions, and the solutions are a function of a single parameter, that parameter can take the conceptual role of time

. One then asks what might happen if two such solutions are set up far away from each other, in the "distant past", and are made to move towards each other, interact (under the constraint of the differential equation) and then move apart in the "future". The scattering matrix then pairs solutions in the "distant past" to those in the "distant future".

Solutions to differential equations are often posed on manifold

s. Frequently, the means to the solution requires the study of the spectrum

of an operator

on the manifold. As a result, the solutions often have a spectrum that can be identified with a Hilbert space

, and scattering is described by a certain map, the S matrix

, on Hilbert spaces. Spaces with a discrete spectrum

correspond to bound state

s in quantum mechanics, while a continuous spectrum

is associated with scattering states. The study of inelastic scattering then asks how discrete and continuous spectra are mixed together.

An important, notable development is the inverse scattering transform

, central to the solution of many exactly solvable models.

Mathematics

Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

and physics

Physics

Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

,

**scattering theory**is a framework for studying and understanding the scatteringScattering

Scattering is a general physical process where some forms of radiation, such as light, sound, or moving particles, are forced to deviate from a straight trajectory by one or more localized non-uniformities in the medium through which they pass. In conventional use, this also includes deviation of...

of waves

WAVES

The WAVES were a World War II-era division of the U.S. Navy that consisted entirely of women. The name of this group is an acronym for "Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service" ; the word "emergency" implied that the acceptance of women was due to the unusual circumstances of the war and...

and particles

Elementary particle

In particle physics, an elementary particle or fundamental particle is a particle not known to have substructure; that is, it is not known to be made up of smaller particles. If an elementary particle truly has no substructure, then it is one of the basic building blocks of the universe from which...

. Prosaically, wave scattering corresponds to the collision and scattering of a wave with some material object, for instance sunlight

Sunlight

Sunlight, in the broad sense, is the total frequency spectrum of electromagnetic radiation given off by the Sun. On Earth, sunlight is filtered through the Earth's atmosphere, and solar radiation is obvious as daylight when the Sun is above the horizon.When the direct solar radiation is not blocked...

scattered by rain drops to form a rainbow

Rainbow

A rainbow is an optical and meteorological phenomenon that causes a spectrum of light to appear in the sky when the Sun shines on to droplets of moisture in the Earth's atmosphere. It takes the form of a multicoloured arc...

. Scattering also includes the interaction of billiard balls on a table, the Rutherford scattering

Rutherford scattering

In physics, Rutherford scattering is a phenomenon that was explained by Ernest Rutherford in 1911, and led to the development of the Rutherford model of the atom, and eventually to the Bohr model. It is now exploited by the materials analytical technique Rutherford backscattering...

(or angle change) of alpha particle

Alpha particle

Alpha particles consist of two protons and two neutrons bound together into a particle identical to a helium nucleus, which is classically produced in the process of alpha decay, but may be produced also in other ways and given the same name...

s by gold

Gold

Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

nuclei

Atomic nucleus

The nucleus is the very dense region consisting of protons and neutrons at the center of an atom. It was discovered in 1911, as a result of Ernest Rutherford's interpretation of the famous 1909 Rutherford experiment performed by Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden, under the direction of Rutherford. The...

, the Bragg scattering (or diffraction) of electrons and X-rays by a cluster of atoms, and the inelastic scattering of a fission fragment as it traverses a thin foil. More precisely, scattering consists of the study of how solutions of partial differential equations, propagating freely "in the distant past", come together and interact with one another or with a boundary condition, and then propagate away "to the distant future".

The

**direct scattering problem**is the problem determining the distribution of scattered radiation/particle flux basing on the characteristics of the scattererScattering

Scattering is a general physical process where some forms of radiation, such as light, sound, or moving particles, are forced to deviate from a straight trajectory by one or more localized non-uniformities in the medium through which they pass. In conventional use, this also includes deviation of...

.

The inverse scattering problem

Inverse scattering problem

In the physics field of of scattering theory, the inverse scattering problem is that of determining characteristics of an object based on data of how it scatters incoming radiation or particles....

is the problem of determining the characteristics of an object (e.g., its shape, internal constitution) from measurement data of radiation or particles scattered from the object.

Since its early statement for radiolocation

Radar

Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

, the problem has found vast number of applications, such as echolocation

Acoustic location

Acoustic location is the science of using sound to determine the distance and direction of something. Location can be done actively or passively, and can take place in gases , liquids , and in solids .* Active acoustic location involves the creation of sound in order to produce an echo, which is...

, geophysical survey, nondestructive testing

Nondestructive testing

Nondestructive testing or Non-destructive testing is a wide group of analysis techniques used in science and industry to evaluate the properties of a material, component or system without causing damage....

, medical imaging

Medical imaging

Medical imaging is the technique and process used to create images of the human body for clinical purposes or medical science...

and quantum field theory

Quantum field theory

Quantum field theory provides a theoretical framework for constructing quantum mechanical models of systems classically parametrized by an infinite number of dynamical degrees of freedom, that is, fields and many-body systems. It is the natural and quantitative language of particle physics and...

, to name just a few.

## Conceptual underpinnings

The concepts used in scattering theory go by different names indifferent fields. The object of this section is to point the reader

to common threads.

### Composite targets and range equations

When the target is a set of many scattering centers whose relative position varies unpredictably, it is customary to think of a range equation whose arguments take different forms in different application areas. In the simplest case consider an interaction that removes particles from the "unscattered beam" at a uniform rate that is proportional to the incident flux of particles per unit area per unit time, i.e. thatwhere Q is an interaction coefficient and x is the distance traveled in the target.

The above ordinary first-order differential equation

Differential equation

A differential equation is a mathematical equation for an unknown function of one or several variables that relates the values of the function itself and its derivatives of various orders...

has solutions of the form:

where I

_{o}is the initial flux, path length Δx≡x-x_{o}, the second equality defines an interaction mean free pathMean free path

In physics, the mean free path is the average distance covered by a moving particle between successive impacts which modify its direction or energy or other particle properties.-Derivation:...

λ, the third uses the number of targets per unit volume η to define an area cross-section

Cross section (physics)

A cross section is the effective area which governs the probability of some scattering or absorption event. Together with particle density and path length, it can be used to predict the total scattering probability via the Beer-Lambert law....

σ, and the last uses the target mass density ρ to define a density mean free path τ. Hence one converts between these quantities via Q = 1/λ = ησ = ρ/τ, as shown in the figure at left.

In electromagnetic absorption spectroscopy, for example, interaction coefficient (e.g. Q in cm

^{-1}) is variously called opacityOpacity (optics)

Opacity is the measure of impenetrability to electromagnetic or other kinds of radiation, especially visible light. In radiative transfer, it describes the absorption and scattering of radiation in a medium, such as a plasma, dielectric, shielding material, glass, etc...

, absorption coefficient, and attenuation coefficient

Attenuation coefficient

The attenuation coefficient is a quantity that characterizes how easily a material or medium can be penetrated by a beam of light, sound, particles, or other energy or matter. A large attenuation coefficient means that the beam is quickly "attenuated" as it passes through the medium, and a small...

. In nuclear physics, area cross-sections (e.g. σ in barn

Barn (unit)

A barn is a unit of area. Originally used in nuclear physics for expressing the cross sectional area of nuclei and nuclear reactions, today it is used in all fields of high energy physics to express the cross sections of any scattering process, and is best understood as a measure of the...

s or units of 10

^{-24}cm^{2}), density mean free path (e.g. τ in grams/cm^{2}), and its reciprocal the mass attenuation coefficientMass attenuation coefficient

The mass attenuation coefficient is a measurement of how strongly a chemical species or substance absorbs or scatters light at a given wavelength, per unit mass...

(e.g. in cm

^{2}/gram) or*area per nucleon*are all popular, while in electron microscopy the inelastic mean free pathInelastic mean free path

The inelastic mean free path is an index of how far an electron can travel through a solid before losing energy.If a monochromatic primary beam of electrons is incident on a solid surface, the majority of incident electrons lose their energy because they interact strongly with matter, leading to...

(e.g. λ in nanometers) is often discussed instead.

## In theoretical physics

In mathematical physicsMathematical physics

Mathematical physics refers to development of mathematical methods for application to problems in physics. The Journal of Mathematical Physics defines this area as: "the application of mathematics to problems in physics and the development of mathematical methods suitable for such applications and...

,

**scattering theory**is a framework for studying and understanding the interaction or scatteringScattering

Scattering is a general physical process where some forms of radiation, such as light, sound, or moving particles, are forced to deviate from a straight trajectory by one or more localized non-uniformities in the medium through which they pass. In conventional use, this also includes deviation of...

of solutions to partial differential equation

Partial differential equation

In mathematics, partial differential equations are a type of differential equation, i.e., a relation involving an unknown function of several independent variables and their partial derivatives with respect to those variables...

s. In acoustics

Acoustics

Acoustics is the interdisciplinary science that deals with the study of all mechanical waves in gases, liquids, and solids including vibration, sound, ultrasound and infrasound. A scientist who works in the field of acoustics is an acoustician while someone working in the field of acoustics...

, the differential equation is the wave equation

Wave equation

The wave equation is an important second-order linear partial differential equation for the description of waves – as they occur in physics – such as sound waves, light waves and water waves. It arises in fields like acoustics, electromagnetics, and fluid dynamics...

, and scattering studies how its solutions, the sound waves, scatter from solid objects or propagate through non-uniform media (such as sound waves, in sea water, coming from a submarine

Submarine

A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

). In the case of classical electrodynamics, the differential equation is again the wave equation, and the scattering of light

Light

Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

or radio wave

Radio Wave

Radio Wave may refer to:*Radio frequency*Radio Wave 96.5, a radio station in Blackpool, UK...

s is studied. In quantum mechanics

Quantum mechanics

Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

and particle physics

Particle physics

Particle physics is a branch of physics that studies the existence and interactions of particles that are the constituents of what is usually referred to as matter or radiation. In current understanding, particles are excitations of quantum fields and interact following their dynamics...

, the equations are those of quantum electrodynamics QED

Quantum electrodynamics

Quantum electrodynamics is the relativistic quantum field theory of electrodynamics. In essence, it describes how light and matter interact and is the first theory where full agreement between quantum mechanics and special relativity is achieved...

, quantum chromodynamics QCD

Quantum chromodynamics

In theoretical physics, quantum chromodynamics is a theory of the strong interaction , a fundamental force describing the interactions of the quarks and gluons making up hadrons . It is the study of the SU Yang–Mills theory of color-charged fermions...

and the Standard Model

Standard Model

The Standard Model of particle physics is a theory concerning the electromagnetic, weak, and strong nuclear interactions, which mediate the dynamics of the known subatomic particles. Developed throughout the mid to late 20th century, the current formulation was finalized in the mid 1970s upon...

, the solutions of which correspond to fundamental particles. In quantum chemistry

Quantum chemistry

Quantum chemistry is a branch of chemistry whose primary focus is the application of quantum mechanics in physical models and experiments of chemical systems...

, the solutions correspond to atom

Atom

The atom is a basic unit of matter that consists of a dense central nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons. The atomic nucleus contains a mix of positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons...

s and molecule

Molecule

A molecule is an electrically neutral group of at least two atoms held together by covalent chemical bonds. Molecules are distinguished from ions by their electrical charge...

s, governed by the Schrödinger equation

Schrödinger equation

The Schrödinger equation was formulated in 1926 by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger. Used in physics , it is an equation that describes how the quantum state of a physical system changes in time....

.

## Elastic and inelastic scattering

The example of scattering in quantum chemistryQuantum chemistry

Quantum chemistry is a branch of chemistry whose primary focus is the application of quantum mechanics in physical models and experiments of chemical systems...

is particularly instructive, as the theory is reasonably complex while still having a good foundation on which to build an intuitive understanding. When two atoms are scattered off one another, one can understand them as being the bound state

Bound state

In physics, a bound state describes a system where a particle is subject to a potential such that the particle has a tendency to remain localised in one or more regions of space...

solutions of some differential equation. Thus, for example, the hydrogen atom

Hydrogen atom

A hydrogen atom is an atom of the chemical element hydrogen. The electrically neutral atom contains a single positively-charged proton and a single negatively-charged electron bound to the nucleus by the Coulomb force...

corresponds to a solution to the Schrödinger equation

Schrödinger equation

The Schrödinger equation was formulated in 1926 by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger. Used in physics , it is an equation that describes how the quantum state of a physical system changes in time....

with a negative inverse-power (i.e., attractive Coulombic) central potential. The scattering of two hydrogen atoms will disturb the state of each atom, resulting in one or both becoming excited, or even ionized

Ionization

Ionization is the process of converting an atom or molecule into an ion by adding or removing charged particles such as electrons or other ions. This is often confused with dissociation. A substance may dissociate without necessarily producing ions. As an example, the molecules of table sugar...

. Thus, collision

Collision

A collision is an isolated event which two or more moving bodies exert forces on each other for a relatively short time.Although the most common colloquial use of the word "collision" refers to accidents in which two or more objects collide, the scientific use of the word "collision" implies...

s can be either elastic

Elastic collision

An elastic collision is an encounter between two bodies in which the total kinetic energy of the two bodies after the encounter is equal to their total kinetic energy before the encounter...

(the internal quantum states of the particles are not changed) or inelastic

Inelastic collision

An inelastic collision, in contrast to an elastic collision, is a collision in which kinetic energy is not conserved.In collisions of macroscopic bodies, some kinetic energy is turned into vibrational energy of the atoms, causing a heating effect, and the bodies are deformed.The molecules of a gas...

(the internal quantum states of the particles are changed). From the experimental viewpoint the observable quantity is the cross section

Cross section (physics)

A cross section is the effective area which governs the probability of some scattering or absorption event. Together with particle density and path length, it can be used to predict the total scattering probability via the Beer-Lambert law....

. From the theoretical viewpoint the key quantity is the S matrix

S matrix

In physics, the scattering matrix relates the initial state and the final state of a physical system undergoing a scattering process...

.

## Topics in physics

According to the optics classification of the Optical Society of AmericaOptical Society of America

The Optical Society is a scientific society dedicated to advancing the study of light—optics and photonics—in theory and application, by means of publishing, organizing conferences and exhibitions, partnership with industry, and education. The organization has members in more than 100 countries...

this field consists of the following topics:

## The mathematical framework

In mathematicsMathematics

Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, scattering theory deals with a more abstract formulation of the same set of concepts. For example, if a differential equation

Differential equation

A differential equation is a mathematical equation for an unknown function of one or several variables that relates the values of the function itself and its derivatives of various orders...

is known to have some simple, localized solutions, and the solutions are a function of a single parameter, that parameter can take the conceptual role of time

Time

Time is a part of the measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects....

. One then asks what might happen if two such solutions are set up far away from each other, in the "distant past", and are made to move towards each other, interact (under the constraint of the differential equation) and then move apart in the "future". The scattering matrix then pairs solutions in the "distant past" to those in the "distant future".

Solutions to differential equations are often posed on manifold

Manifold

In mathematics , a manifold is a topological space that on a small enough scale resembles the Euclidean space of a specific dimension, called the dimension of the manifold....

s. Frequently, the means to the solution requires the study of the spectrum

Spectrum

A spectrum is a condition that is not limited to a specific set of values but can vary infinitely within a continuum. The word saw its first scientific use within the field of optics to describe the rainbow of colors in visible light when separated using a prism; it has since been applied by...

of an operator

Operator theory

In mathematics, operator theory is the branch of functional analysis that focuses on bounded linear operators, but which includes closed operators and nonlinear operators.Operator theory also includes the study of algebras of operators....

on the manifold. As a result, the solutions often have a spectrum that can be identified with a Hilbert space

Hilbert space

The mathematical concept of a Hilbert space, named after David Hilbert, generalizes the notion of Euclidean space. It extends the methods of vector algebra and calculus from the two-dimensional Euclidean plane and three-dimensional space to spaces with any finite or infinite number of dimensions...

, and scattering is described by a certain map, the S matrix

S matrix

In physics, the scattering matrix relates the initial state and the final state of a physical system undergoing a scattering process...

, on Hilbert spaces. Spaces with a discrete spectrum

Discrete spectrum

In physics, an elementary explanation of a discrete spectrum is that it is an emission spectrum or absorption spectrum for which there is only an integer number of intensities. Atomic electronic absorption and emission spectrum are discrete, as contrasted with, for example, the emission spectrum...

correspond to bound state

Bound state

In physics, a bound state describes a system where a particle is subject to a potential such that the particle has a tendency to remain localised in one or more regions of space...

s in quantum mechanics, while a continuous spectrum

Continuous spectrum

The spectrum of a linear operator is commonly divided into three parts: point spectrum, continuous spectrum, and residual spectrum.If H is a topological vector space and A:H \to H is a linear map, the spectrum of A is the set of complex numbers \lambda such that A - \lambda I : H \to H is not...

is associated with scattering states. The study of inelastic scattering then asks how discrete and continuous spectra are mixed together.

An important, notable development is the inverse scattering transform

Inverse scattering transform

In mathematics, the inverse scattering transform is a method for solving some non-linear partial differential equations. It is one of the most important developments in mathematical physics in the past 40 years...

, central to the solution of many exactly solvable models.