Measuring the boiling point of the vacuum of quantum electrodynamics

Hartin, Anthony (University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom) ; Ringwald, Andreas (DESY, Notkestrasse 85, 22607 Hamburg, Germany) ; Tapia, Natalia (Departamento de Fisica, Universidad de Santiago de Chile, Casilla 307, 9170124 Santiago, Chile)

12 February 2019

Abstract: It is a long-standing nontrivial prediction of quantum electrodynamics that its vacuum is unstable in the background of a static, spatially uniform electric field and, in principle, sparks with spontaneous emission of electron-positron pairs. However, an experimental verification of this prediction seems out of reach because a sizeable rate for spontaneous pair production requires an extraordinarily strong electric field strength |E| of order the Schwinger critical field, Ec=me2/e1.3×1018 V/m, where me is the electron mass and e is its charge. Here, we show that the measurement of the rate of pair production due to the decays of high-energy bremsstrahlung photons in a high-intensity laser field allows for the experimental determination of the Schwinger critical field and, thus, the boiling point of the vacuum of quantum electrodynamics.


Published in: Physical Review D 99 (2019)
Published by: APS
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevD.99.036008
arXiv: 1807.10670
License: CC-BY-4.0



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