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Tests of the Aharonov-Bohm effect

Adam Preston Caprez, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The Aharonov-Bohm effect was first proposed in 1959, and has stimulated discussion and controversy since the start. Seen by many as a purely quantum mechanical effect, it nevertheless involves such issues as gauge invariance and relativistic dynamics. This multi-faceted nature has led it to be considered a keystone of modern quantum theory. Over the past half-century, interest has remained strong in what many believe is still an open debate as to the purely quantum nature. Additionally, discovery of similar effects for particles other than electrons has further driven curiosity. To better understand the issues such as electromagnetic mass and relativistic effects involved in the Aharonov-Bohm effect, a theoretical study of a simpler two particle system was done. The goal was to understand the manner in which mass of the system behaved strictly classically as compared to a relativistically. As a result of this, a Gedanken experiment is presented which serves as a test for covariance. The two particle system was extended to a spherical shell interacting with a single particle, and a second thought experiment put forth to explore a coupling between electromagnetism and gravitation. In the course of searching for simpler systems which involved the same issues as the Aharonov-Bohm effect, a system presented in the Feynman Lectures of Physics was found to be appropriate. We conduct a complete relativistic analysis of this system as a step towards a full relativistic analysis of the Aharonov-Bohm effect. Given the history and significance of the Aharonov-Bohm effect, it is perhaps surprising that relevant experimental tests had not been completed. For the first time, we searched for time delays as an electron passes a macroscopic solenoid. Such time delays are characteristic of classical forces acting on the electron. No such delays were found, seemingly confirming the standard viewpoint. It is still possible a classical explanation may exist for microscopic solenoids, though our experiment has served to place an upper limit for any such explanation. The definitive experiment concerning the Aharonov-Bohm Effect has yet to be completed. Proposed by Zeilinger, it consists of showing the dispersionless nature of the effect. To accomplish this requires an electron interferometer capable of enclosing a larger area and operating at lower energies than any which currently exist. We are attempting to construct such an interferometer using a hybrid approach with a nanofabricated grating and electron bi-prism. We have shown that experimentally that this combination can produce a large beam separation and still retain sufficient coherence to function as an interferometer.

Subject Area

Electromagnetics|Atoms & subatomic particles|Theoretical physics

Recommended Citation

Caprez, Adam Preston, "Tests of the Aharonov-Bohm effect" (2009). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3350442.