Probing Supercritical Fields with Real and with Artificial Nuclei

  • Joachim ReinhardtEmail author
  • Walter Greiner
Part of the FIAS Interdisciplinary Science Series book series (FIAS)


In the presence of strong electric fields the vacuum state of Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) becomes unstable and decays through the spontaneous production of electron-positron pairs. This is expected to occur, e.g., in constant electric fields exceeding a critical strength of \(E_\mathrm{cr} \simeq 1.3\cdot 10^{18}\) V/m and also in hypothetical atoms with a nuclear charge exceeding the critical value \(Z_\mathrm{cr} \simeq 172\). We discuss how supercritical quasiatoms can be created transiently in collisions of two heavy ions and discuss experimental signatures. We also report on an analogue of supercritical QED which has been found in solid-state physics. The electron states in the material graphene obey an effective Dirac-like equation. Depositing charged impurity atoms on the surface of a graphene sheet one can construct artificial supercritical atoms.


Dirac Equation Scan Tunneling Microscopy Coulomb Barrier Dirac Point Pair Creation 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Theoretical PhysicsJohann Wolfgang Goethe UniversityFrankfurt am MainGermany
  2. 2.Frankfurt Institute for Advanced StudiesJohann Wolfgang Goethe UniversityFrankfurt am MainGermany

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