03-280 Juerg Froehlich, Marco Merkli, Israel Michael Sigal
Ionization of atoms in a thermal field (491K, postscript) Jun 13, 03
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Abstract. We study the stationary states of a quantum mechanical system describing an atom coupled to black-body radiation at positive temperature. The stationary states of the non-interacting system are given by product states, where the particle is in a bound state corresponding to an eigenvalue of the particle Hamiltonian, and the field is in its equilibrium state. We show that if Fermi's Golden Rule predicts that a stationary state disintegrates after coupling to the radiation field then it is unstable, provided the coupling constant is sufficiently small (depending on the temperature). \\ \indent The result is proven by analyzing the spectrum of the thermal Hamiltonian (Liouvillian) of the system within the framework of $W^*$-dynamical systems. A key element of our spectral analysis is the positive commutator method.

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