Lance Labun, National Taiwan University

Topic: "Probing the quantum vacuum with high intensity lasers"  (Video)

Abstract: A long-standing prediction of relativistic quantum theory is that a potential step greater than twice the particle mass, Delta V>2m, spontaneously emits charged particles. The same is true of gauge potentials, such as the electromagnetic field: When the electric field strength nears a critical magnitude determined by the electron mass, field energy is rapidly converted into electron-positron pairs. In other words, the usual zero-particle perturbative vacuum state decays into what is expected to be a hot plasma of electrons, positrons and photons. This effect may soon be achievable in the lab by focusing and compressing high energy laser pulses. I will discuss how exploring pair production and vacuum decay in lab experiments in the context of quantum electrodynamics will provide a new tool to understand particle production and entropy generation in relativistic hadron collisions and confinement of color charge (why there are no free quarks), and may offer insights into Hawking radiation.