Evaluation of the Feynman Propagator by Means of the Quantum Hamilton-Jacobi Equation

Mario Fusco Girard


It is shown that the complex phase of the Feynman propagator is a solution of the quantum Hamilton–Jacobi equation, namely, it is the quantum Hamilton's principal function (or quantum action). Therefore, the Feynman propagator can be computed either by means of the path integration, or by the way of the Hamilton–Jacobi equation. This is analogous to what happens in classical mechanics, where the Hamilton's principal function can be computed either by integrating the Lagrangian along the extremal paths, or as a solution of partial differential equation, namely the classical Hamilton–Jacobi equation. If the path is decomposed in the classical one and quantum fluctuations, the contribution of these quantum fluctuations satisfies a non-linear partial differential equation, whose coefficients depend on the classical action. When the contribution of the quantum fluctuations depend only on the time, it can be computed by means of a simple integration. The final results for the propagators in this case are equal to the Van Vleck–Pauli–Morette expressions, even though the two derivations are quite different.

Quanta 2023; 12: 22–26.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12743/quanta.v12i1.223

ISSN: 1314-7374