What is the Schwinger Effect?

The Schwinger effect is a predicted physical phenomenon whereby a strong electric field creates matter. Fritz Sauter originally proposed the effect in 1931.

In a constant electric field of sufficiently high magnitude, electron pairs are created out of a vacuum (as per the theory of quantum electrodynamics). The creation of electron pairs out of the vacuum occurs at a specific rate. This effect is commonly referred to as the Schwinger effect.

  • A consequence of this effect is that any sufficiently high electric field can destroy itself due to quantum effects.
  • The Schwinger effect is an example of a non-linearity that is non-perturbative in nature.
  • It is interesting to note that several scientists worked on this effect, but Schwinger was the first to successfully calculate the rate at which the electron pairs were being created out of the vacuum.

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