Vacuum radiation pressure fluctuations and barrier penetration
AbstractWe apply recent results on the probability distribution for quantum stress tensor fluctuations to the problem of barrier penetration by quantum particles. The probability for large stress tensor fluctuations decreases relatively slowly with increasing magnitude of the fluctuation, especially when the quantum stress tensor operator has been averaged over a finite time interval. This can lead to large vacuum radiation pressure fluctuations on charged or polarizable particles, which can in turn push the particle over a potential barrier. The rate for this effect depends sensitively upon the details of the time averaging of the stress tensor operator, which might be determined by factors such as the shape of the potential. We make some estimates for the rate of barrier penetration by this mechanism and argue that in some cases this rate can exceed the rate for quantum tunneling through the barrier. The possibility of observation of this effect is discussed.