We show that the well-known Čerenkov effect contains new phenomena arising from the quantum nature of charged particles. The Čerenkov transition amplitudes allow coupling between the charged particle and the emitted photon through their orbital angular momentum and spin, by scattering into preferred angles and polarizations. Importantly, the spectral response reveals a discontinuity immediately below a frequency cutoffthat can occur in the optical region. Near this cutoff, the intensity of the conventional Čerenkov radiation (ČR) is very small but still finite, while our quantum calculation predicts exactly zero intensity above the cutoff. Below that cutoff, with proper shaping of electron beams (ebeams), we predict that the traditional ČR angle splits into two distinctive cones of photonic shockwaves. One of the shockwaves can move along a backward cone, otherwise considered impossible for conventional ČR in ordinary matter. Our findings are observable for ebeams with realistic parameters, offering new applications including novel quantum optics sources, and opening a new realm for Čerenkov detectors involving the spin and orbital angular momentum of charged particles.
Kaminer, I., Mutzafi, M., Levy, A., Harari, G., Sheinfux, H. H., Skirlo, S., … Soljacic, M. (2016). Quantum Čerenkov radiation: Spectral cutoffs and the role of spin and orbital angular momentum. Physical Review X, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevX.6.011006