Juerg Froehlich and Marco Merkli
Thermal Ionization
(541K, postscript)
ABSTRACT. In the context of an idealized model describing an atom coupled to black-body
radiation at a sufficiently high positive temperature, we show that the
atom will end up being ionized in the limit of large times. Mathematically,
this is translated into the statement that the coupled system does not have
any time-translation invariant state of positive (asymptotic) temperature, and
that the expectation value of an arbitrary finite-dimensional projection in an
arbitrary initial state of positive (asymptotic) temperature tends to zero, as
time tends to infinity. \\
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These results are formulated within the general framework of $W^*$-dynamical
systems, and the proofs are based on Mourre's theory of positive commutators
and a new virial theorem. Results on the so-called standard form of a von
Neumann algebra play an important role in our analysis.