When off-resonant light travels through a transparent medium, light scattering is the primary optical process to occur. Multiple-particle events are relatively rare in optically dilute systems: scattering generally takes place at individual atomic or molecular centers. Several well-known phenomena result from such single-center interactions, including Rayleigh and Raman scattering, and the optomechanical forces responsible for optical tweezers. Other, less familiar effects may arise in circumstances where throughput radiation is able to simultaneously engage with two or more scattering sites in close, nanoscale, proximity. Exhibiting the distinctive near-field electromagnetic character, inter-particle interactions such as optical binding and a variety of inelastic bimolecular processes can then occur. Although the theory for each two-center process is well established, the connectivity of their mechanisms has not received sufficient attention. To address this deficiency, and to consider the issues that ensue, it is expedient to represent the various forms of multi-particle light scattering in terms of transitions between different radiation states. The corresponding quantum amplitudes, registering the evolution of photon trajectories through the material system, can be calculated using the tools of quantum electrodynamics. Each of the potential outcomes for multi-particle scattering generates a set of amplitudes corresponding to different orderings of the constituent photon-matter interactions. Performing the necessary sums over quantum pathways between radiation states is expedited by a state-sequence development, this formalism also enabling the identification of intermediate states held in common by different paths. The results reveal the origin and consequences of linear momentum conservation, and they also offer new insights into the behavior of light between closely neighboring scattering events. © 2010 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.
- Light scattering
- Optomechanical design