Universal tunneling time for all fields

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Abstract

Tunneling is an outstanding physical process. The observation that particles surmount a high barrier in spite of the fact that they don't have the necessary energy can not be explained by classical physics. However, this so called tunneling became allowed by quantum mechanics. Experimental tunneling studies with different photonic barriers from microwave frequencies up to ultraviolet frequencies point towards a universal tunneling time [1, 2]. Tunneling can be described by virtual, that is, by unobservable particles [3]. In the case of tunneling there is a virtual particle between the real incident and the real transmitted particles. Tunneling modes are solutions of the Schrödinger and of the Helmholtz equations. The most prominent example of the occurrence of tunneling modes in optics is frustrated total internal reflection (FTIR) at double prisms. In 1949 Sommerfeld [4] pointed out that this optical phenomenon represents the analogy of quantum mechanical particle tunneling. Recent experimental and theoretical data confirmed the conjecture that the tunneling process is characterized by a universal tunneling time presumably independent of the kind of field. The observed tunneling processes proceeded at a time of the order of magnitude of the reciprocal frequency of the wave packets.

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