Numerical Solution of the Schrödinger Equation for the Double Square Well Potential¶
Authors: Dou Du, Taylor James Baird and Giovanni Pizzi
This notebook displays interactively the eigenfunctions for a double square well potential (DSWP) in one dimension, as obtained from the numerical solution of the associated Shrödinger equation. The double square well potential is a simple but effective model to describe physical systems.
- Understand one of the numerical methods used to solve the time-independent Shrödinger equation.
- Understand the importance of the DSWP model for real material systems.
- Investigate quantum tunneling in the double square well potential system.
Tasks and exercises¶
Start from a small gap distance (e.g. 0.1) between the two quantum wells. Fix the depth and width for both wells with the default value. Keep both wells identical. Slowly increase (use 0.1 as step value) the gap distance and record the two lowest eigenvalues at each gap distance. What do you see when the gap distance is increasing? What chemical reaction can you think of for this process?
SolutionWhen the gap distance is increasing, the energy difference between the two lowest eigenvalues becomes smaller. In the large gap distance, the wavefunctions are localized at both quantum wells, which converge to single quantum well solutions. This process is ideal to describe the H$_2$ bond breaking.
In the DSWP for H$_2$ molecule and ammonia maser examples, we employed symmetric double wells, which means the width and depth are identical for both wells. However, the two wells can be different. What kinds of chemical systems can be described by two different quantum wells?
SolutionGenerally, the double square well potential can be employed to characterize diatomic molecules, which only contain two atoms. There are two categories of diatomic molecules, namely homonuclear and heteronuclear molecules. Homonuclear diatomic molecules consist of two identical atoms, such as H$_2$, O$_2$, and N$_2$. Heteronuclear diatomic molecules have two different atoms like CO, NO, and HCl. The symmetric DSWP is a reasonable model for homonuclear diatomic molecules since the electron-nuclear interactions are the same for both nuclei. On the other hand, one needs to set two different quantum wells to approximate heteronuclear diatomic molecules.
What is the disadvantage of this double square well potential model? How would one improve the model?
SolutionEven though the DSWP is successful in the explanation of some quantum systems, the model is still too simple to be applied in many cases and far from the real potential. One can replace the square well with another, more realistic potential, for example, a quartic function as shown in the "Avoided Crossing in 1D Asymmetric Quantum Well" notebook.
By making a comparison with the solutions expected from classical considerations, think of how quantum mechanical tunnelling manifests in this system. Furthermore, try to think of the role this phenomenon plays in the operation of an ammonia maser.
SolutionIn the classical picture of this system, one would never expect a particle with energy $E$, smaller than the height of the well, $V$, to be observed in the region between the two wells or to move from its original well to the other. However, we can observe in the figure that in the quantum mechanical treatment of the system, there is in fact a non-zero probability of finding a particle in the region between the two wells and for hopping between wells. This later behaviour is referred to as tunnelling. This phenomenon is one of the core principles behind an ammonia (NH$_3$) maser which relies on the tunnelling of the nitrogen atom through the potential barrier produced by the plane of hydrogen atoms. See the background theory notebook for an illustration of this.
- Width: the width of the quantum well.
- Depth: the depth of the quantum well.
- Zoom factor: the zoom factor of the eigenfunctions.
- Gap distance: the distance between two quantum wells (edge to edge).
(How to use the interactive visualization)
There are two subplots shown above. The wide figure on the left shows the well potential and the square moduli of the eigenfunctions, $|\psi|^2$, of different states. The narrow figure on the right shows the eigenvalues. One can highlight the square modulus of a particular eigenfunction, $|\psi|^2$, along with its corresponding eigenvalue by clicking on the plot. All the other states will be hidden from the plot.
There are sliders to adjust the depth and width of the quantum well potentials. One can also tune the distance between the two quantum wells. By clicking the "Show all" button, one can see all states again. The radio button is used to choose whether to show the wavefunctions $\psi$ or the probability densities $|\psi|^2$.