Cyclotron resonance experiments

Cyclotron resonance experiments

The measurement of charge-to-mass ratios of electrically charged particles from the frequency of their helical motion in a magnetic field. Such experiments are particularly useful in the case of conducting crystals, such as semiconductors and metals, in which the motions of electrons and holes are strongly influenced by the periodic potential of the lattice through which they move. Under such circumstances the electrical carriers often have “effective masses” which differ greatly from the mass in free space; the effective mass is often different for motion in different directions in the crystal. Cyclotron resonance is also observed in gaseous plasma discharges and is the basis for a class of particle accelerators. See Band theory of solids, Particle accelerator

Cyclotron resonance is most easily understood as the response of an individual charged particle; but, in practice, the phenomenon involves excitation of large numbers of such particles. Their net response to the electromagnetic radiation may significantly affect the overall dielectric behavior of the material in which they move. Thus, a variety of new wave propagation mechanisms may be observed which are associated with the cyclotron motion, in which electromagnetic energy is carried through the solid by the spiraling carriers. These collective excitations are generally referred to as plasma waves. In general, for a fixed input frequency, the plasma waves are observed to travel through the conducting solid at magnetic fields higher than those required for cyclotron resonance. The most easily observed of these excitations is a circularly polarized wave, known as a helicon, which travels along the magnetic field lines. It has an analog in the ionospheric plasma, known as the whistler mode and frequently detected as radio interference. There is, in fact, a fairly complete correspondence between the resonances and waves observed in conducting solids and in gaseous plasmas. Cyclotron resonance is more easily observed in such low-density systems since collisions are much less frequent there than in solids. In such systems the resonance process offers a means of transferring large amounts of energy to the mobile ions, a necessary condition if nuclear fusion reactions are to occur. See Nuclear fusion, Plasma (physics)

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