PVLAS experiment, search for the Polarization of quantum Vacuum with LASers

It is well known that Maxwell's equations in vacuum are linear: the superposition principle is valid for electromagnetic fields. Heisenberg's principle, however, allows the vacuum to fluctuate, thereby producing virtual pairs of particles which, if charged, bring about non-linear effects in vacuum such as light-light scattering through a box diagram.

Furthermore, hypothetical neutral particles coupling to photon pairs may also allow photon-photon interaction. In presence of an external field (magnetic or electric), these effects result in v≠c, birefringence, and dichroism.

The PVLAS experiment, that is now located at the Physics Department of the University of Ferrara, Italy, has the very aim of measuring both the real and imaginary part of the index of refraction of light traversing a strong magnetic field.


The Trieste Physics Department is an active part of this experiment, which could lead to the very first detection of this minute but fundamental QED effect.


In Trieste we work mainly on the computational side (data analysis and simulation), and we welcome all interested students to join us. 


Head of Research Group
Edoardo Milotti


Last update: 01-17-2020 - 18:50