Self-compression and catastrophic collapse of photon bullets in vacuum

Marklund, M. and Eliasson, B. and Shukla, P. K. (2004) Self-compression and catastrophic collapse of photon bullets in vacuum. JETP Letters, 79 (5). pp. 208-212. ISSN 1090-6487

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Abstract

Photon-photon scattering, due to photons interacting with virtual electron-positron pairs, is an intriguing deviation from classical electromagnetism predicted by quantum electrodynamics (QED). Apart from being of fundamental interest in itself, collisions between photons are believed to be of importance in the vicinity of magnetars, in the present generation intense lasers, and in intense laser-plasma/matter interactions, the latter recreating astrophysical conditions in the laboratory. We show that an intense photon pulse propagating through a radiation gas can self-focus and, under certain circumstances, collapse. This is due to the response of the radiation background, creating a potential well in which the pulse gets trapped, giving rise to photonic solitary structures. When the radiation gas intensity has reached its peak values, the gas releases part of its energy into “photon wedges,” similar to Cherenkov radiation. The results should be of importance for the present generation of intense lasers and for the understanding of localized gamma-ray bursts in astrophysical environments. They could furthermore test the predictions of QED and give means to create ultraintense photonic pulses.