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    Perturbation theory applied to electron in a magnetic field

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    Consider an electron with spin magnetic moment u_s in a strong magnetic field B_z in the z direction. The potential for an electron with spin magnetic moment u_s in a magnetic field B is V=-u_s . B

    where u_s = -((g_s)(u_B))/(hbar) . S

    Thus the Hamiltonian is H_0 = ((g_S)(u_B))/(hbar) . B . S = ((g_s)/2)(u_B) . B . sigma

    and g_s = 2 for the electron. The eigenstates of H_0 are just the spin up and spin down states, | up > and | down >, with energies E_+ = (u_B)(B_z) and E_- = -(u_B)(B_z).

    Suppose we are in the spin up state, | up >, and we add the small magnetic field (B_x)(x hat) with B_x << B_z. Take B = (B_x)(x hat) + (B_z)(z hat), and calculate the exact energies.

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    Solution Preview

    Let's write the Hamiltonian as

    H = u_b B dot sigma

    Then , if we put B = B_z z-hat + B_x x-hat,

    We still have a Hamilitonian of the same form as when B_x was zero, because by rotational symmetry, it doesn't matter in which direction the magnetic field happens to point in. So, if we know that the energy eigenvalues for the case B_x = 0 are given by:

    E = u_b B_z and E = -u_b B_z,

    Then this simply means that E = plus or minus u_b |B| with B the magnitude of the magnetic field, because we can always decide to call the direction in which the field points to be the z-direction. This does mean that the states |up> and ...

    Solution Summary

    To illustrate second order perturbation theory, we consider an electron in a magnetic field, where the magnetic field has a large component in the z-direction and small component in the x-direction. The exact energy eigenvalues are easily obtained from considering the total magnetic field. We also obtain the same solution in a different way by writing down the Hamiltonian in the basis of spin up and down in the z-direction and diagonalize the Hamiltonian.

    From the exact solution we can see that if we treat the magnetic field in the x-direction as a perturbation, it will make a nonzero contribution to second order in perturbation theory. We then use perturbation theory to calculate the first and second order contributions and show that the results are in agreement with the series expansion of the exact solution.