Wave packet spreading and localization in electron-nuclear scattering
The wave packet molecular dynamics (WPMD) method provides a variational approximation to the solution of the time-dependent Schr¨odinger equation. Its application in the field of high-temperature dense plasmas has yielded diverging electron width (spreading), which results in diminishing electron-nuclear interactions. Electron spreading has previously been ascribed to a shortcoming of the WPMD method and has been counteracted by various heuristic additions to the models used. We employ more accurate methods to determine if spreading continues to be predicted by them and how WPMD can be improved. A scattering process involving a single dynamic electron interacting with a periodic array of statically screened protons is used as a model problem for comparison. We compare the numerically exact split operator Fourier transform method, the Wigner trajectory method, and the time-dependent variational principle (TDVP). Within the framework of the TDVP, we use the standard variational form of WPMD, the single Gaussian wave packet (WP), as well as a sum of Gaussian WPs, as in the split WP method. Wave packet spreading is predicted by all methods, so it is not the source of the unphysical diminishing of electron-nuclear interactions in WPMD at high temperatures. Instead, the Gaussian WP’s inability to correctly reproduce breakup of the electron’s probability density into localized density near the protons is responsible for the deviation from more accurate predictions. Extensions of WPMD must include a mechanism for breakup to occur in order to yield dynamics that lead to accurate electron densities.