Pair Production

Introduction to Pair Production

There are many ways in which photons can interact with atoms, electrons and matter. Pair production is one among those, through which a photon can interact with the atoms and electrons. In pair production, a photon creates an electron and a positron in such a way that during this process the photon involved in the interaction will disappear. 

Basically, during the process of pair production, we are creating an elementary particle and its antiparticle with the help of a photon (or sometimes another neutral boson). Pair production is actually an exact opposite process of annihilation and it is useful in demonstrating the conservation of charges. Pair production is a chief method through which energy from gamma-ray is observed in a given condensed matter. Let us understand pair production, what is pair production along illustrations.


What is Pair Production?

Now, let us understand what is pair production. Before we start with pair production, let us have a look at the what is annihilation process. Both annihilation and the pair production process explain the interaction of photons with matter.


Annihilation

Electron-positron annihilation occurs when an electron and a positron (the antiparticle of the electron) collide. The result of the collision is the conversion of the electron and positron and the creation of gamma-ray photons or, less often, other particles. The process must satisfy a number of conservation laws, including:

  • Conservation of charge. The net charge before and after is zero

  • Conservation of linear momentum and total energy This forbids the creation of a single gamma-ray.

  • Conservation of angular momentum.

So, now we will focus on what is pair production with the help of the annihilation process. When a gamma-ray photon interacts with any nucleus and it will lose its energy. Technically, pair production is a mode of interaction of gamma rays with the matter and during this process, they will result in loss of energy. During pair production, the energy of the incident photon will get converted into matter. The pair production can take place if and only if the energy of the photon is more than or equal to 102 MeV. 

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As positron is a highly unstable particle and has a very short lifespan, it will recombine with an available electron in the surrounding. The combination of a positron (the antiparticle of the electron) and an electron will lead to the formation of -rays which are at an angle of 180° to each other. The overall energy of initial -rays would be distributed equally i.e. for example if the original energy were 1.02 MeV then the two -rays (formed after the combination of the Positron and Electron) which are at an angle of 180° to each other would have 0.51 MeV of energy each. Any additional energy available will be conserved as kinetic energy in the produced particles.

Therefore, the pair production reaction is given by:

Y ⟶ e- + e+ ≃1.02 MeV

After understanding what is pair production we can note certain important facts about the pair production process as following:

  • The pair production interactions are ruled by three major types of the law of conservation, i.e., conservation of total energy, conservation of momentum, and finally the conservation of electric charge. Soon after the collision, a pair of electrons and a positron will be created.

  • In this collision, the antiparticle of an electron i.e., the positron (e+)as a particle, has the same physical properties which electron has, except its charge parity, these two particles, electron and positron have the opposite charge, and thus their magnetic momentum will also be of the opposite parity. Having an opposite charge parity means that the total sum of the net charge of pairs is zero, which is actually equal to the photon before the interaction. Therefore, the conservation of electric charge will be conserved and is evident.

  • The momentum in the pair production can be ignored because the atomic nucleus is thousands of times more massive than just a pair of electrons and positrons, and thus, the photon momentum can be absorbed. Thus, it is possible to predict that absorbing momentum occurs without absorbing much energy. So, it is can be represented by an equation that shows the conservation of total energy and is given by:

⇒hv = E+ + E- = (Total energy of positron) + (Total energy of electron)

⇒hv = (m0c2 + K-) + (m0c2 + K+

⇒ hv = 2m0c2 + K- + K+………(2)

Where,

K+ -The kinetic energy of Positron

K- -The kinetic energy of the electron


Did You Know?

Do you know that the pair production can not take place in space!!!


Reason: The pair production can not take place in a vacuum or space. The pair production can happen only in the presence of an external object like an atomic nucleus which can experience some recoil during the collision process to conserve the energy and the momentum at the same time. Thus, the pair production can not take place in space or a vacuum, as the energy and the momentum can not be conserved at the same time.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Pair Production?

Ans: Pair production is the process of the interaction of gamma-ray photons with matter. When a gamma-ray photon collides with the nucleus an electron and its antiparticle positron are created. This kind of interaction of a photon with matter is familiarly known as pair production.

2. Whether the Charge Conservation Takes Place During Pair Production?

Ans: Yes. The pair production is majorly governed by three conservations and one among them is charge conservation. During pair production, the antiparticle of an electron i.e., the positron (e+as a particle, has the same physical properties which electron has, except its charge parity, these two particles, electron and positron have the opposite charge, and thus their magnetic momentum will also be of the opposite parity. Having an opposite charge parity means that the total sum of the net charge of pairs is zero, which is actually equal to the photon before the interaction. Therefore, the conservation of electric charge will be conserved and is evident.