Wave Packet

Also found in: Wikipedia.

wave packet

[′wāv ‚pak·ət]
In wave phenomena, a superposition of waves of differing lengths, so phased that the resultant amplitude is negligibly small except in a limited portion of space whose dimensions are the dimensions of the packet. Also known as packet.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Wave Packet


a propagating wave field that occupies a finite region of space at any given moment. Wave packets may occur with waves of any nature (sound, electromagnetic, and so on). Such a wave“surge” in a localized region of space may be resolved into the sum of monochromatic waves whose frequencies lie within definite limits. However, the term“wave packet” is generally used in connection with quantum mechanics.

In quantum mechanics, a plane, monochromatic de Broglie wave—that is, a wave with definite values of frequency and wavelength and occupying the entire space—corresponds to each state of a particle with certain values of momentum and energy. The coordinates of a particle having precisely defined momentum are completely indeterminate—the particle may be found with equal probability at any point of the space, since this probability is proportionate to the square of the amplitude of the de Broglie wave. This corresponds with the uncertainty principle, which states that the more definite is the particle’s momentum, the less definite is its coordinate. On the other hand, if the particle is localized in any limited region of space, its momentum no longer has a precisely defined magnitude—there is a certain spread in its possible values. The state of such a particle is represented by the sum (more accurately, by the integral, because the momentum of a free particle varies continually) of monochromatic waves with frequencies corresponding to the spread of possible values of momentum. The superposition of a group of such waves that have almost the same direction of propagation but differ slightly in frequency is the wave packet. This means that the resultant wave will be different from zero only in a certain limited region of space; in quantum mechanics it cor-responds to the fact that the probability of finding the particle in the region occupied by the wave packet is large, whereas outside this region it is practically zero.

The velocity of the wave packet (more accurately, of its center) is found to coincide with the mechanical velocity of the particle. From this it can be deduced that the wave packet describes a freely moving particle whose possible location at any given time is limited to a certain small region of coordinates (that is, the wave packet becomes the wave function of such a particle).

With the passage of time, the wave packet widens and becomes diffuse (see Figure 1). This results from the fact that the monochromatic waves forming the packet and having different frequencies propagate with different velocities even in a vacuum: some waves move faster, others more slowly, and the wave packet is deformed. This diffusion of the wave packet corresponds to the fact that the region of possible localization of the particle increases.

Figure 1. Diffusion of a wave packet with the passage of time t. At the initial moment the particle is described by wave packet Ψ0 at time t, by wave packet Ψt;ǀΨ0ǀ2 and ǀΨt2 define the probabilities of finding the particle at a certain point x; v is the velocity of the center of the packet, coinciding with the particle’s mechanical velocity. The areas encompassed by the curves and the x-axis are equal and give the total probability of finding the particle in the space at a given time.

If the particle is not free but is located near some attracting center—for example, an electron in the Coulomb field of the proton in a hydrogen atom—such a bound particle will be associated with standing waves, which retain their stability. In this case the shape of the wave packet remains invariable, which corresponds to the stationary state of the system. In a case when the system jumps into a new state owing to external influences (for example, when a particle strikes an atom), the wave packet instantly restructures itself in conformity with transition; this is called a reduction of the wave packet. Such a reduction would lead to contradictions wifli the requirements of the theory of relativity if de Broglie’s waves were ordinary material waves, such as those of the type of electromagnetic waves. Actually, in such a case the reduction of the wave packet would signify the existence of super-light (instant) signals. The probability interpretation of de Broglie waves eliminates this difficulty.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The evolution of Korteweg-de Vries (KdV) equation's solution in wave packet form was investigated in [33].
In this paper we aim to study which features of the interactions may be generated by an inhomogeneity which is induced by a wave or a wave packet.
The traveling time of the second wave packet is contributions of both the [A.sub.0] and quasi-Scholte modes.
The Schrodinger equation, applied to our free particle, predicts that the center of a wave packet will move through space at a constant velocity, like a classical particle with no forces acting on it.
The resulting wave displays a wave packet (or beat) that varies along with the so-called group velocity (v = [v.sup.[mu]]):
In this expression, [DELTA][t.sub.i] - [t.sub.i2] - [t.sub.i1] is the time interval centered at the maximum amplitude of wave packet, [v.sub.f](t) is the recorded wave amplitude, i = 1 indicates the first arrival, i = 2 corresponds to the echo, and k is a material constant.
If z1 equals z2, the wave packets of the two converted modes merge into a mixed wave packet propagating between the original S0 and A0 modes
Asks the stand from under analysis the basis only to use the small wave packet the nature theorem one, and therefore suits in all small wave packets, also is any small wave packet all has the same result and the natural order and the frequency order are different, moreover with produces the small wave packet by the theorem one determination small wave packet frequency order confused situation the criterion function to have nothing to do with; In other words, the small wave packet frequency order all is same.
A large-amplitude wake packet is measured at about 1000 s, corresponding to waves near the edge of the wake wedge (the leading wave packet), which appears in the spectrogram as a vertical line.
The first mode shows strong dispersion, with the higher frequencies propagating significantly slower than the lower frequencies, which leads to the broadening of the wave packet with propagation distance observed in the simulation results.
A comparison of computational results with those obtained by the corresponding Maxwell-Schrodinger scheme [6] has revealed that both results agree very well for a harmonic single-well potential while disagree qualitatively for a triple-well potential where a harmonic potential is artificially supplemented by two small humps allowing bifurcation of the electron wave packet. Although this study clearly demonstrates necessity of use of the Maxwell-Schrodinger scheme over the conventional Maxwell-Newton one particularly when quantum-mechanical tunnelling takes place, an effect of anharmoicity in a single-well confining potential on computational results has not been fully explored.
Rice, "Control of selectivity of chemical reaction via control of wave packet evolution," The Journal of Chemical Physics, vol.