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Energies of spin states

  1. Dec 28, 2007 #1
    [SOLVED] energies of spin states

    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    An electron is in a constant magnetic field with magnitude B_0, aligned in the -z direction. My book says without explanation:

    "the spin-up state has energy [itex] -\mu_B B_0[/itex]"

    where [itex] \mu_B[/itex] is the Bohr magneton

    I looked back in the Spin Angular Momentum chapter and I cannot find where this was derived.

    I am thinking that they used the equation [tex] H = B_0 \mu_B \sigma_z [/itex] and just calculated the energy of the spin up state using the TISE and the vector representation of spin-up in z. Is there an a priori way of knowing the energy of a spin state of it is spin up or down in x, y,or z in a magnetic field?

    EDIT: OK. So I think that if you actually calculate the energies for the spins using H |\psi> = E | \psi>, you get that the energy is always [itex] -\mu_B B_0[/itex] when the spin is antiparallel to the magnetic field vector and [itex] \mu_B B_0[/itex] when the spin is parallel to the magnetic field vector. I explicitly checked that this holds for x, y, and z. Could I have obtained this result without calculating with Pauli matrices, though? Does this result hold when the spin and magnetic field are parallel but not along x,y,z,-x,-y,-z?

    2. Relevant equations

    3. The attempt at a solution
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 29, 2007 #2


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    the Hamiltonian for a (spin)particle in magnetic field:

    [tex]H = - (q/mc) \vec{S} \cdot \vec{B} [/tex] (sakurai eq 2.1.49)
    (q = -e for the electron)

    the magnetic moment for an electron is of course: [tex]\mu_B = e\hbar /2mc [/tex]

    Now you can simply relate the spin matrices to the hamiltonian and see what energy eigenvalues different states have.

    for your B-field: [tex] \vec{B} = -B_0 \hat{z} [/tex]
    You will get this hamiltonian:
    [tex] H = - (e/2mc) \sigma _z B_0 [/tex] and the pauli matrix property:
    [tex] \sigma _z \chi _+ = \hbar \chi _+ [/tex]
    So the energy for this particle (spin in +z and magnetic field in -z) is [itex] -\mu_B B_0[/itex]
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2007
  4. Dec 29, 2007 #3
    So, I guess the answers to my questions in the EDIT are no and yes.
  5. Dec 29, 2007 #4
  6. Dec 29, 2007 #5


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    You must use the spin- (pauli) matrices for this, the form of the hamiltonian follows from basic electromagnetism.

    For your second "question" , i dont know what you ask for, but it is very easy to evaluate the energy eigen values for a specific state in a certain magnetic field.
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