Investigating the QED vacuum with ultra-intense laser fields
1 School of Mathematics and Computing, Plymouth University, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK
2 Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik, Saupfercheckweg 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Received: 13 March 2014
Revised: 24 March 2014
Published online: 4 June 2014
In view of the increasingly stronger available laser fields it is becoming feasible to employ them to probe the nonlinear dielectric properties of the vacuum as predicted by quantum electrodynamics (QED) and to test QED in the presence of intense laser beams. First, we discuss vacuum-polarization effects that arise in the collision of a high-energy proton beam with a strong laser field. In addition, we investigate the process of light-by-light diffraction mediated by the virtual electron-positrons of the vacuum. A strong laser beam “diffracts” a probe laser field due to vacuum polarization effects, and changes its polarization. This change of the polarization is shown to be in principle measurable. Also, the possibility of generating harmonics by exploiting vacuum-polarization effects in the collision in vacuum of two ultra-strong laser beams is discussed. Moreover, when two strong parallel laser beams collide with a probe electromagnetic field, each photon of the probe may interact through the “polarized” quantum vacuum with the photons of the other two fields. Analogously to “ordinary” double-slit set-ups involving matter, the vacuum-scattered probe photons produce a diffraction pattern, which is the envisaged observable to measure the quantum interaction between the probe and strong field photons. We have shown that the diffraction pattern becomes visible in a few operating hours, if the strong fields have an intensity exceeding 1024W/cm2.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag, 2014