# Thomson and Rayleigh Scattering

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1 Thomson and Rayleigh Scattering In this and the next several lectures, we re going to explore in more detail some specific radiative processes. The simplest, and the first we ll do, involves scattering. There are many interesting limits of scattering, but for a start we ll treat frequency-independent nonrelativistic scattering (Thomson scattering). Suppose a lonely electron has an electromagnetic wave incident on it. The wave has a frequency ω. Ask class: what will be the response of the electron to the electric field of the wave? Since the electric field is sinusoidal, the electron will oscillate up and down at the frequency ω. Ask class: what will be the result of that acceleration? The electron will radiate. Ask class: at what frequency? It will just be at the driving frequency of the radiation, ω. Note also that the radiation is not in the original direction of polarization. Seen from the outside, this means it looks like a photon hits the electron, then scatters off in some new direction. In the limit we re considering, the new frequency is exactly the same as the old frequency. That s Thomson scattering. If we have a flux (in number per square centimeter per second) of incident particles at some target, and there is some rate of interactions (in number per second), the cross section is just the rate divided by the flux. Ask class: in this case, we have an energy flux and a power, so how do we get the cross section? Same idea: power (energy per second) divided by energy flux (energy per area per second). Therefore, to figure out the cross section, we need the radiated power for a given flux. The electric force from a linearly polarized wave is F = eǫe 0 sin ω 0 t, (1) where ǫ is the E field direction. From Newton s second law and the definition of the dipole moment d = er, we get d = (e 2 E 0 /m)ǫ sin ω 0 t d = (e 2 E 0 /mω0)ǫ 2 (2) sin ω 0 t. Larmor s formula gives the time-averaged power per solid angle: dp/dω = [e 4 E 2 0/(8πm 2 c 3 )] sin 2 Θ, (3) where Θ is the angle relative to the initial polarization direction, not the propagation direction. The incident flux is S = (c/8π)e 2 0, so we can define a differential cross section for scattering into the solid angle dω: so dp/dω = S (dσ/dω) = (ce 2 0/8π)(dσ/dΩ), (4) dσ/dω = (e 4 /m 2 c 4 ) sin 2 Θ = r 2 0 sin 2 Θ, (5)

2 where r 0 e 2 /mc 2 is the classical radius of the electron, r 0 = cm. It s the radius that would give an electrostatic energy equal to m e c 2. Integrating over all angles, one finds σ = (8π/3)r 2 0; one can also get this directly from P = S σ. For an electron, σ = σ T = cm 2. Ask class: from the preceding, how would they expect the Thomson cross section of a proton to compare to that of an electron? The cross section is proportional to 1/m 2, so the cross section for a proton is tiny, something like times less than for an electron. That s the reason why, for fully ionized plasmas, interaction of radiation with protons is rarely considered. Ask class: qualitatively, why is the cross section of a proton less than that of an electron? It s because the acceleration of a proton is lots less than that of an electron (due to the higher mass), so the radiation power is less as well. We can now compute the differential cross section for unpolarized light by realizing that it s just the superposition of two orthogonally polarized waves. If we define θ as the angle between the scattered radiation and the original radiation (so that θ = π/2 Θ), the result is dσ/dω = 1 2 r2 0(1 + cos 2 θ), (6) and the total cross section is the same as before (as it must be, since an electron at rest has no intrinsic polarization, so it has to react to all linear polarizations in the same way). We notice a couple of things. First, the radiation is front-back symmetric but not isotropic. There is a tendency for the radiation to be scattered in the direction of motion or directly opposite it. In principle this means that a random walk of scatters is a little different from what it would be with isotropic scattering, but in practice there is not much difference. Second, scattering polarizes radiation (as we ve already seen). In particular, if one starts with unpolarized light then the light in direction θ has a degree of polarization Π = (1 cos 2 θ)/(1 + cos 2 θ). (7) Light along the original direction is unpolarized. Perpendicular to that direction, it s 100% polarized. We ve assumed that the energy of the photon is much less than the mass-energy of the electron. Ask class: if the photon energy were comparable to the electron mass-energy, what difference would they expect that to make? The main difference is that the momentum of the photon is then significant, meaning that the electron has some non-negligible recoil due to the scattering. This leads to Compton scattering, which we discuss in the next lecture. An electron has no structure, so it has no intrinsic natural frequency of vibration. However, things with structure (e.g., atoms or molecules) do have natural frequencies. How does this change things? Let s guess, then see if we re right. Suppose that the frequency of

3 the wave is much larger than the natural frequency of the atom. Then the binding of the electron plays little role. Ask class: how do they expect the cross section to behave then? It s just the same as if the electron were free, so we should get the Thomson cross section again. Now, suppose that the frequency of the wave is much smaller than the natural frequency. Then, the whole atom essentially rides up and down on the wave. Thus, the acceleration is proportional to the second derivative of the motion. If the motion is like cos ωt, the acceleration is like ω 2 cos ωt. Ask class: what would this say about the cross section? Remember that the cross section is radiated energy divided by incident flux. Thus, since radiated energy is proportional to a 2, this suggests a form like σ ω 4. Let s see how that goes in more detail. First, let s think about a particle oscillating by itself. If it has a sinusoidal oscillation with frequency ω 0, you might think that the equation of motion would be ẍ + ω 2 0x = 0. (8) Ask class: is there any other contribution to the motion? Remember that an accelerated particle emits radiation, so we have to take radiation reaction into account. The averaged force is τx (3), where x (3) is the third time derivative. However, we can simplify by realizing that radiation reaction is a small perturbation (unless the oscillation period is s or less!), so we ll say that x (3) ω 2 0ẋ. Then we find ẍ + ω 2 0τẋ + ω 2 0x = 0. (9) Note that the middle term has an odd number of time derivatives. That means that it is not time reversible. That s one of the signatures of damping, which is also not time reversible. Let s add a driving force. Suppose that an external time-varying electric field is added, which contributes a force ee 0 cos ωt. This is what an incident photon would do. A common trick here is to use exp(iωt) instead of cosωt, and remember to take the real part later. We get ẍ + ω 2 0τẋ + ω 2 0x = (ee 0 /m) exp(iωt). (10) When confronted with differential equations of this type, a good approach is to try a solution of the form x = A exp(αt), then solve for A and α after substitution. When you do this, you find x = x 0 exp[i(ωt + δ)] (11) where x 0 = (ee 0 /m) (ω 2 2 iω0τ) 3 1 δ = tan 1 [ω 3 τ/(ω 2 ω0)] 2. Looking past all the various factor, what this basically says is that the electron does oscillate at the driving frequency ω, but delayed (or advanced) by the phase shift δ. We can now (12)

4 figure out the power radiated by getting the time average using the Larmor formula and taking the real part: P = e 2 x 0 2 ω 4 /(3c 3 ) = e4 E 2 0 3m 2 c 3 ω 4 (ω 2 ω 2 0) + (ω 3 0τ) 2. (13) The time-averaged flux is S = (c/8π)e 2 0, so the cross section is the power over the flux or Note that since τ is so small, τω 0 1. σ(ω) = σ T ω 4 (ω 2 ω 2 0) 2 + (ω 3 0τ) 2. (14) Ask class: what s one limit we could explore? We could look at the limit ω ω 0. Ask class: what is the answer in that limit? It s just σ T. This corresponds to our expectations. Ask class: what about when ω ω 0? Then σ(ω) = σ T (ω/ω 0 ) 4. This is Rayleigh scattering; visible light has a much lower frequency than the natural frequency of molecules in the atmosphere, so blue light scatters a lot more than red light. Thus, blue skies and red sunsets! This recalls a poem, original author unknown: Tell me why the stars shine Tell me why the ivy twines Explain to me the sky so blue And I will say why I love you Fusion makes the stars shine Tropisms make the ivy twine Scattering makes the sky so blue And hormones are why I love you Ahem :). Now let s explore another limit in some more detail. Suppose that the frequency ω of the photon is close to the natural (or resonant) frequency ω 0 of the atom/molecule. The only subtlety here is dealing with the (ω 2 ω 2 0) 2 term in the bottom. A standard method is to retain factors such as ω ω 0, but otherwise set ω to ω 0. Then we get σ(ω) = πσ T 2τ = πσ T 2τ = 2π2 e 2 mc ω0 2τ/2π (ω ω 0 ) 2 +(ω0 2τ/2)2 Γ/2π (15) (ω ω 0 ) 2 +(Γ/2) 2 Γ/2π (ω ω 0 ) 2 +(Γ/2) 2

5 where Γ = ω 2 0τ is the natural width of the resonance. This profile is known as a Lorentz profile for a spectral line. Incidentally, near the resonance the shape of the cross section is the same as the shape of a line from free oscillations of the atom. That s not accidental; one could excite the free oscillations by having a pulse of radiation near ω 0 hit the atom, then ring down freely. This whole approach has interest in part because it provides the only classical description of a spectral line. Often when one gets the correct quantum result, one refers the cross section to the classical result to get a ratio. For example, let s integrate that line over angular frequency ω or the cycle frequency ν: 0 σ(ω)dω = 2π 2 e 2 /(mc) 0 σ(ν)dν = πe 2 (16) /(mc). But wait, didn t we cheat? We found that at high frequencies the cross section approaches a constant value (the cross section σ T of Thomson scattering). This would mean that the total integral is infinite! Oops. This type of situation is encountered in a number of places in physics; the formal integral is infinite, but you know that physically it must be finite. One way to deal with this is to impose a cutoff on the integral, and (1) show that this is justified physically, and (2) show that the precise value of the cutoff doesn t make much difference. Ask class: in this case, what cutoff can we make and how can we justify it? We know that the radiation reaction formula is only valid if ωτ 1, so if ω gets too large, all bets are off. Now, does the frequency at which we cut off the integral make a difference? The integral of just the Thomson cross section is ω max 0 σ T dω = σ T ω max. We know that ω max 1/τ, so σ T ω max σ T /τ = 4πe 2 /mc, so the precise value can t matter much. Therefore, our little swindle above was okay. The preceding was a classical attempt to model a spectral line of an atom. In the quantum theory one does things differently, but it is still convenient to define the oscillator strength f nn of a transition from state n to n by 0 σ(ν)dν = πe2 mc f nn. (17)

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