Depletion of Intense Fields
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The problem of backreaction of quantum processes on the properties of the background field still remains on the list of outstanding questions of high intensity particle physics. Usually, photon emission by an electron or positron, photon decay into electron-positron pairs in strong electromagnetic fields, or electron-positron pair production by such fields are described in the framework of the external field approximation. It is assumed that the external field has infinite energy and is not affected by these processes. However, the above-mentioned processes have a multi-photon nature, i.e., they occur with the absorption of a significant number of field photons. As a result, the interaction of an intense electromagnetic field with either a highly charged electron bunch or a fast growing population of electrons, positrons, and gamma photons (as in the case of an electromagnetic cascade) may lead to a depletion of the field energy, thus making the external field approximation invalid. Taking the multi-photon Compton process as an example, we estimate the threshold of depletion and find it to become significant at field strengths (a0∼103) and electron bunch charge of about tens of nC.
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