• High Power Laser Science and Engineering
  • Vol. 4, Issue 1, 010000e5 (2016)
B. King* and T. Heinzl
Author Affiliations
  • Centre for Mathematical Sciences, Plymouth University, Plymouth PL4 8AA, United Kingdom
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    When exposed to intense electromagnetic fields, the quantum vacuum is expected to exhibit properties of a polarizable medium akin to a weakly nonlinear dielectric material. Various schemes have been proposed to measure such vacuum polarization effects using a combination of high- power lasers. Motivated by several planned experiments, we provide an overview of experimental signatures that have been suggested to confirm this prediction of quantum electrodynamics of real photon–photon scattering.

    1 Motivation

    The increasing availability of multi-hundred TW and PW lasers[1] brings the confirmation of long-predicted phenomena of strong-field quantum electrodynamics (QED)[2, 3] closer. A multitude of effects on the polarization, wavevector and frequency of photons that probe the polarization of the charged virtual pairs of the vacuum have been theoretically investigated. All of these effects can be understood in terms of the single process of ‘photon–photon scattering’. The current best experimental limit on the predicted cross-section for photon–photon scattering using just high-power laser pulses lies eighteen orders of magnitude above QED[4], but recent laser-cavity experiments such as BMV[5] and PVLAS[6] have reduced this to six and three orders of magnitude, respectively (or three orders of magnitude and a factor 50, respectively, at the level of the refractive index). Moreover, coinciding with the completion of the XFEL laser at DESY, an experiment at the HIBEF facility[7] plans to measure one manifestation of photon–photon scattering, namely the birefringence of the vacuum, using the XFEL beam and a $1~\text{PW}$ optical laser. This has generated much interest in vacuum polarization effects.

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    B. King, T. Heinzl. Measuring vacuum polarization with high-power lasers[J]. High Power Laser Science and Engineering, 2016, 4(1): 010000e5
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    Received: Nov. 21, 2015
    Accepted: --
    Published Online: Oct. 25, 2016
    The Author Email: B. King (b.king@plymouth.ac.uk)