Bound state

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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. The potential may be either an external potential, or may be the result of the presence of another particle.

In quantum mechanics (where the number of particles is conserved), a bound state is a state in Hilbert space that corresponds to two or more particles whose interaction energy is less than the total energy of each separate particle, and therefore these particles cannot be separated unless energy is spent. The energy spectrum of a bound state is discrete, unlike the continuous spectrum of isolated particles. (Actually, it is possible to have unstable bound states with a positive interaction energy provided that there is an "energy barrier" that has to be tunnelled through in order to decay. This is true for some radioactive nuclei and for some electret materials able to carry electric charge for rather long periods.)

In general, a stable bound state is said to exist in a given potential of some dimension if stationary square-integrable wavefunctions exist (normalized in the range of the potential). The energies of these wavefunctions are negative.

In relativistic quantum field theory, a stable bound state of Template:Mvar particles with masses Template:Bigmath shows up as a pole in the S-matrix with a center of mass energy which is less than Template:Bigmath. An unstable bound state (see resonance) shows up as a pole with a complex center of mass energy.


An overview of the various families of elementary and composite particles, and the theories describing their interactions

In mathematical quantum physics

Let Template:Mvar be a complex separable Hilbert space, be a one-parametric group of unitary operators on Template:Mvar and be a statistical operator on Template:Mvar. Let Template:Mvar be an observable on Template:Mvar and let be the induced probability distribution of Template:Mvar with respect to Template:Mvar on the Borel σ-algebra on . Then the evolution of Template:Mvar induced by Template:Mvar is said to be bound with respect to Template:Mvar if , where .

Example: Let and let Template:Mvar be the position observable. Let have compact support and .

It should be emphasized that a bound state can have its energy located in the continuum spectrum. This fact was first pointed out by John von Neumann and Eugene Wigner in 1929. [5] This exotic type of bound state has been realized in several simple models. [6] [7]

See also


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