Classical helium atom with radiation reaction

Chaos. 2012 Jun;22(2):023111. doi: 10.1063/1.4703945.


We study a classical model of helium atom in which, in addition to the Coulomb forces, the radiation reaction forces are taken into account. This modification brings in the model a new qualitative feature of a global character. Indeed, as pointed out by Dirac, in any model of classical electrodynamics of point particles involving radiation reaction one has to eliminate, from the a priori conceivable solutions of the problem, those corresponding to the emission of an infinite amount of energy. We show that the Dirac prescription solves a problem of inconsistency plaguing all available models which neglect radiation reaction, namely, the fact that in all such models, most initial data lead to a spontaneous breakdown of the atom. A further modification is that the system thus acquires a peculiar form of dissipation. In particular, this makes attractive an invariant manifold of special physical interest, the zero-dipole manifold that corresponds to motions in which no energy is radiated away (in the dipole approximation). We finally study numerically the invariant measure naturally induced by the time-evolution on such a manifold, and this corresponds to studying the formation process of the atom. Indications are given that such a measure may be singular with respect to that of Lebesgue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't