Next: Probability Interpretation of the Up: Wave Mechanics Previous: Representation of Waves via

Schrödinger's Equation

The basic premise of wave mechanics is that a massive particle of energy and linear momentum , moving in the -direction (say), can be represented by a one-dimensional complex wavefunction of the form
 (784)

where the complex amplitude, , is arbitrary, whilst the wavenumber, , and the angular frequency, , are related to the particle momentum, , and energy, , via the fundamental relations (773) and (771), respectively. Now, the above one-dimensional wavefunction is, presumably, the solution of some one-dimensional wave equation that determines how the wavefunction evolves in time. As described below, we can guess the form of this wave equation by drawing an analogy with classical physics.

A classical particle of mass , moving in a one-dimensional potential , satisfies the energy conservation equation

 (785)

where
 (786)

is the particle's kinetic energy. Hence,
 (787)

is a valid, but not obviously useful, wave equation.

However, it follows from Equations (785) and (771) that

 (788)

which can be rearranged to give
 (789)

Likewise, from (785) and (773),
 (790)

which can be rearranged to give
 (791)

Thus, combining Equations (788), (790), and (792), we obtain
 (792)

This equation, which is known as Schrödinger's equation--since it was first formulated by Erwin Schrödinder in 1926--is the fundamental equation of wave mechanics.

Now, for a massive particle moving in free space (i.e., ), the complex wavefunction (785) is a solution of Schrödinger's equation, (793), provided that

 (793)

The above expression can be thought of as the dispersion relation (see Section 5.1) for matter waves in free space. The associated phase velocity (see Section 7.2) is
 (794)

where use has been made of (773). Note that this phase velocity is only half the classical velocity, , of a massive (non-relativistic) particle.

Next: Probability Interpretation of the Up: Wave Mechanics Previous: Representation of Waves via
Richard Fitzpatrick 2010-10-11