Dissipation in Quantum Mechanics. The Harmonic Oscillator
Abstract
The need for a quantummechanical formalism for systems with dissipation which is applicable to the radiation field of a cavity is discussed. Two methods that have been used in this connection are described. The first, which starts with the classical Newtonian equation of motion for a damped oscillator and applies the conventional formal quantization techniques, leads to an exact solution; but subsequent discussion shows that this method is invalid, the results being unacceptable from a quantummechanical viewpoint. The second method, which considers the interaction of two systems, the lossless oscillator and the loss mechanism, is adopted in the present article. No special model is used for the loss mechanism, but this mechanism is assumed to have a large number of denselyspaced energy states. The approximations with respect to the loss mechanism that underlie the concept of dissipation are discussed. These approximations are then applied to the analysis, and a differential equation for a coordinate operator of the harmonic oscillator is obtained which has the formal appearance of the Newtonian equation of motion for a driven damped harmonic oscillator, the driving term being an operator referring to the loss mechanism. The presence of the driving term is responsible for the difference between the present theory and that of the first method mentioned above. A solution of the differential equation for the coordinate operator is given explicitly. An examination of the physical significance of the solution shows that the driving term is responsible not only for the thermal fluctuations which are due to the loss mechanism, but also for the proper commutation relationship of the conjugate coordinates of the oscillator and for its zeropoint fluctuations. A generalization of the solution to provide for a classical driving force and coupled atomic systems is given. The results are then restated in a form that refers to the loss mechanism only through the two parameters by which it is usually describedthe dissipation constant and the temperature.
 Publication:

Physical Review
 Pub Date:
 July 1960
 DOI:
 10.1103/PhysRev.119.670
 Bibcode:
 1960PhRv..119..670S