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We will show that the components of the angular momentum operator \(\vec{L}\), written in differential operator form in rectangular components, satisfy the commutation relations: \begin{equation} \left[L_x,L_y\right]=+i\hbar L_z \qquad(\text{and cyclic permutations}) \end{equation}

First calculate the components of angular momentum classically: \begin{align} \vec{L}&=\vec{r}\times\vec{p}\\ &=(x\hat{x}+y\hat{y}+z\hat{z})\times(p_x\hat{x}+p_y\hat{y}+p_z\hat{z})\\ &=(yp_z-zp_y)\hat{x}+(zp_x-xp_z)\hat{y}+(xp_y-yp_x)\hat{z} \end{align}

Making the standard quantum substitutions, \begin{align} p_x&\rightarrow -i\hbar\partial_x\\ p_y&\rightarrow -i\hbar\partial_y\\ p_z&\rightarrow -i\hbar\partial_z\\ \end{align} we obtain the following operators for the components of angular momentum: \begin{align} \hat{L}_x&=-i\hbar(y\partial_z-z\partial_y)\\ \hat{L}_y&=-i\hbar(z\partial_x-x\partial_z)\\ \hat{L}_z&=-i\hbar(x\partial_y-y\partial_x)\\ \end{align}

To see the role of the product rule in the commutation relations, it is helpful to give the partial derivatives an arbitrary function \(\psi\) to act on. \begin{align} \left[\hat{L}_x,\hat{L}_y\right]\psi &=\left[-i\hbar(y\partial_z-z\partial_y), -i\hbar(z\partial_x-x\partial_z)\right]\psi\\ &=-\hbar^2\left\{(y\partial_z-z\partial_y)(z\partial_x-x\partial_z) -(z\partial_x-x\partial_z)(y\partial_z-z\partial_y)\right\}\psi \end{align} Now, foil-like-mad. Make sure that all of the partial derivatives act on EVERYTHING to their right. Two of the terms above of the form \begin{align} y\,\partial_z(z\,\partial_x \psi) \end{align} require a product rule: \begin{align} y\,\partial_z(z\,\partial_x \psi) &=y((\partial_z z)(\partial_x\psi)+z(\partial_x\partial_x\psi))\\ &=y\partial_x\psi+yz(\partial_x\partial_x\psi) \end{align}

Continuing the calculation above, we see that all of the second derivative terms will cancel because the order of differentiation doesn't matter, leaving only the first derivative terms from the product rule. \begin{align} \left[\hat{L}_x,\hat{L}_y\right]\psi &=\left[-i\hbar(y\partial_z-z\partial_y), -i\hbar(z\partial_x-x\partial_z)\right]\psi\\ &=-\hbar^2\left\{(y\partial_z-z\partial_y)(z\partial_x-x\partial_z) -(z\partial_x-x\partial_z)(y\partial_z-z\partial_y)\right\}\psi\\ &=-\hbar^2\left\{\left(y\,\partial_z(z\,\partial_x \psi) -y\,\partial_z(x\,\partial_z \psi) -z\,\partial_y(z\,\partial_x \psi) +z\,\partial_y(x\,\partial_z \psi)\right)\right.\\ &\;\;\;\quad\quad\left.-\left(z\,\partial_x(y\,\partial_z \psi) -z\,\partial_x(z\,\partial_y \psi) -x\,\partial_z(y\,\partial_z \psi) +x\,\partial_z(z\,\partial_y \psi)\right) \right\}\\ &=-\hbar^2\left\{\left(\cancel{yz(\partial_z\partial_x\psi)} +y\partial_x\psi -\cancel{yx(\partial_z^2\psi)} -\cancel{z^2(\partial_y\partial_x\psi)} +\cancel{zx(\partial_y\partial_z\psi)}\right)\right.\\ &\;\;\;\quad\quad\left.-\left(\cancel{zy(\partial_x\partial_z\psi)} -\cancel{z^2(\partial_x\partial_y\psi)} -\cancel{xy(\partial_z^2\psi)} +\cancel{xz(\partial_z\partial_y\psi)} +x\partial_y\psi\right) \right\}\\ &=i\hbar\left(-i\hbar(-y\partial_x+x\partial_y)\psi\right)\\ &=i\hbar\hat{L}_z\, \psi \end{align} The other components are cyclic permutations of this calculation.

Students calculate probabilities for a particle on a ring using three different notations: Dirac bra-ket, matrix, and wave function. After calculating the angular momentum and energy measurement probabilities, students compare their calculation methods for notation.

Small Group Activity

10 min.

Angular Momentum in Polar Coordinates
Students learn how to express Angular Momentum as a vector quantity in polar coordinates, and then in Cylindrical and Spherical Coordinates

Small Group Activity

10 min.

Matrix Representation of Angular Momentum
This activity allows students to puzzle through indexing, the from of operators in quantum mechanics, and working with the new quantum numbers on the sphere in an applied context.
Students calculate probabilities for energy, angular momentum, and position as a function of time for an initial state that is a linear combination of energy/angular momentum eigenstates for a particle confined to a ring written in bra-ket notation. This activity helps students build an understanding of when they can expect a quantity to depend on time and to give them more practice moving between representations.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Superposition States for a Particle on a Ring
Students calculate probabilities for a particle on a ring whose wavefunction is not easily separated into eigenstates by inspection. To find the energy, angular momentum, and position probabilities, students perform integrations with the wavefunction or decompose the wavefunction into a superposition of eigenfunctions.

Small White Board Question

30 min.

Magnetic Moment & Stern-Gerlach Experiments
Students consider the relation (1) between the angular momentum and magnetic moment for a current loop and (2) the force on a magnetic moment in an inhomogeneous magnetic field. Students make a (classical) prediction of the outcome of a Stern-Gerlach experiment.
Students see probability density for eigenstates and linear combinations of eigenstates for a particle on a ring. The three visual representations: standard position vs probability density plot, a ring with colormapping, and cylindrical plot with height and colormapping, are also animated to visualize time-evolution.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Wavefunctions on a Quantum Ring
This activity lets students explore translating a wavefunction that isn't obviously made up of eigenstates at first glance into ket and matrix form. Then students explore wave functions, probabilities in a region, expectation values, and what wavefunctions can tell you about measurements of \(L_z\).

Small Group Activity

60 min.

Raising and Lowering Operators for Spin

For \(\ell=1\), the operators that measure the three components of angular momentum in matrix notation are given by: \begin{align} L_x&=\frac{\hbar}{\sqrt{2}}\left( \begin{matrix} 0&1&0\\ 1&0&1\\ 0&1&0 \end{matrix} \right)\\ L_y&=\frac{\hbar}{\sqrt{2}}\left( \begin{matrix} 0&-i&0\\ i&0&-i\\ 0&i&0 \end{matrix} \right)\\ L_z&=\;\;\;\hbar\left( \begin{matrix} 1&0&0\\ 0&0&0\\ 0&0&-1 \end{matrix} \right) \end{align}

Show that:

  1. Find the commutator of \(L_x\) and \(L_y\).
  2. Find the matrix representation of \(L^2=L_x^2+L_y^2+L_z^2\).
  3. Find the matrix representations of the raising and lowering operators \(L_{\pm}=L_x\pm iL_y\). (Notice that \(L_{\pm}\) are NOT Hermitian and therefore cannot represent observables. They are used as a tool to build one quantum state from another.)
  4. Show that \([L_z, L_{\pm}]=\lambda L_{\pm}\). Find \(\lambda\). Interpret this expression as an eigenvalue equation. What is the operator?
  5. Let \(L_{+}\) act on the following three states given in matrix representation. \begin{equation} \left|{1,1}\right\rangle =\left( \begin{matrix} 1\\0\\0 \end{matrix} \right)\qquad \left|{1,0}\right\rangle =\left( \begin{matrix} 0\\1\\0 \end{matrix} \right)\qquad \left|{1,-1}\right\rangle =\left( \begin{matrix} 0\\0\\1 \end{matrix} \right) \end{equation} Why is \(L_{+}\) called a “raising operator”?

Instructor's Guide

Introduction

This activity is meant to lay the foundation of what raising and lowering oporators are and how they can be used. This material will become very important for students' study of symmetry matrices in PH427 and the Quantum Harmonic Oscillator in the Quantum Capstone.

Student Conversations

At this stage, students will not have seen commutators or done much matrix multiplication in a while, so students may progress lower here than you'd expect. It will be important for the teaching team to be on the look out for groups that are confused at the beginning since some will forget that a commutator can have the form \([A,B]=AB-BA\), which is necessary to progress.

Making sure the teaching team has a good handle on the results of each calculation so they can help trouble shoot errors made during matrix multiplication which are hard to catch in the act and usually can most easilty be inferred from an erronous result (which the students themselves won't usually recognize).

Wrap-up

It is a good idea to reinforce the patterns seen in orbital angular momentum to their experiences with spin angular momentum, such as that cross product-like relationship between commutators of cartesian directed angular momenta. Then it becomes easy to contrast those patterns with that of the raising and lower operators and emphasize that these are not observables which correspond to measures of angular momentum but a different object entirely.

While their importance should be emphasized for study of periodic systems and the quantum harmonic oscilator, it should also be mentioned these operators will not be a major focus of this course or our study of the Hydrogen atom as we head into the home stretch of the course. This content is largely a very important detour.

Small White Board Question

5 min.

Angular Momentum SWBQ

Write something you know about angular momentum.

  • Found in: Central Forces course(s)

At low temperatures, a diatomic molecule can be well described as a rigid rotor. The Hamiltonian of such a system is simply proportional to the square of the angular momentum \begin{align} H &= \frac{1}{2I}L^2 \end{align} and the energy eigenvalues are \begin{align} E_{\ell m} &= \hbar^2 \frac{\ell(\ell+1)}{2I} \end{align}

  1. What is the energy of the ground state and the first and second excited states of the \(H_2\) molecule? i.e. the lowest three distinct energy eigenvalues.

  2. At room temperature, what is the relative probability of finding a hydrogen molecule in the \(\ell=0\) state versus finding it in any one of the \(\ell=1\) states?
    i.e. what is \(P_{\ell=0,m=0}/\left(P_{\ell=1,m=-1} + P_{\ell=1,m=0} + P_{\ell=1,m=1}\right)\)

  3. At what temperature is the value of this ratio 1?

  4. At room temperature, what is the probability of finding a hydrogen molecule in any one of the \(\ell=2\) states versus that of finding it in the ground state?
    i.e. what is \(P_{\ell=0,m=0}/\left(P_{\ell=2,m=-2} + P_{\ell=2,m=-1} + \cdots + P_{\ell=2,m=2}\right)\)

(Messy algebra) Purpose: Convince yourself that the expressions for kinetic energy in original and center of mass coordinates are equivalent. The same for angular momentum.

Consider a system of two particles of mass \(m_1\) and \(m_2\).

  1. Show that the total kinetic energy of the system is the same as that of two “fictitious” particles: one of mass \(M=m_1+m_2\) moving with the velocity of the center of mass and one of mass \(\mu\) (the reduced mass) moving with the velocity of the relative position.
  2. Show that the total angular momentum of the system can similarly be decomposed into the angular momenta of these two fictitious particles.

  • Found in: Central Forces course(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Expectation Values for a Particle on a Ring
Students calculate the expectation value of energy and angular momentum as a function of time for an initial state for a particle on a ring. This state is a linear combination of energy/angular momentum eigenstates written in bra-ket notation.

Mathematica Activity

30 min.

Effective Potentials
Students use a pre-written Mathematica notebook or a Geogebra applet to explore how the shape of the effective potential function changes as the various parameters (angular momentum, force constant, reduced mass) are varied.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

de Broglie wavelength after freefall
In this activity students combine energy conservation with the relationship between the de Broglie wavelength and momentum to find the wavelength of atoms that have been dropped a given distance.