Path-integral derivations of complex trajectory methods

Jeremy Schiff, Yair Goldfarb, David J. Tannor

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13 Scopus citations


Path-integral derivations are presented for two recently developed complex trajectory techniques for the propagation of wave packets: complex WKB and Bohmian mechanics with complex action (BOMCA). The complex WKB technique is derived using a standard saddle-point approximation of the path integral, but taking into account the dependence of both the amplitude and the phase of the initial wave function, thus giving rise to the need for complex classical trajectories. The BOMCA technique is derived using a modification of the saddle-point technique, in which the path integral is approximated by expanding around a near-classical path, chosen so that up to some predetermined order there is no need to add any correction terms to the leading-order approximation. Both complex WKB and BOMCA techniques give the same leading-order approximation; in the complex WKB technique higher accuracy is achieved by adding correction terms, while in the BOMCA technique no additional terms are ever added: higher accuracy is achieved by changing the path along which the original approximation is computed. The path-integral derivation of the methods explains the need to incorporate contributions from more than one trajectory, as observed in previous numerical work. On the other hand, it emerges that the methods provide efficient schemes for computing the higher-order terms in the asymptotic evaluation of path integrals. The understanding we develop of the BOMCA technique suggests that there should exist near-classical trajectories that give exact quantum dynamical results when used in the computation of the path integral keeping just the leading-order term. We also apply our path-integral techniques to give a compact derivation of the semiclassical approximation to the coherent-state propagator.

Original languageEnglish
Article number012104
JournalPhysical Review A - Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 18 Jan 2011


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