Angular momentum–scattering angle quantum correlation: a generalized deflection function
A natural generalization of the classical deflection function, the functional dependence of the deflection angle on the angular momentum (or the impact parameter), is the joint probability density function of these two quantities, revealing the correlation between them. It provides, at a glance, detailed information about the reaction mechanisms and how changes in the impact parameter affect the product angular distribution. It is also useful to predict the presence of quantum phenomena such as interference. However, the classical angular momentum–scattering angle correlation function has a limited use whenever quantum effects become important. Rigorously speaking, there is not a quantum equivalent of the classical joint distribution, as the differential cross section depends on the coherences between the different values of J caused by the cross terms in the expansion of partial waves. In this article, we present a simple method to calculate a quantum analog of this correlation, a generalized deflection function that can shed light onto the reaction mechanism using just quantum mechanical results. Our results show that there is a very good agreement between the quantum and classical correlation functions as long as quantum effects are not all relevant. When this is not the case, it will also be shown that the quantum correlation function is most useful to observe the extent of quantum effects such as interference among different reaction mechanisms.