# The Spin–Boson Model

# The Spin–Boson Model

In a generic quantum mechanical description of a molecule interacting with its thermal environment, the molecule is represented as a few level system (in the simplest description just two, for example, ground and excited states) and the environment is often modeled as a bath of harmonic oscillators. The resulting theoretical framework is known as the spin–boson model, a term that seems to have emerged in the Kondo problem literature (which deals with the behavior of magnetic impurities in metals) during the 1960s, but is now used in a much broader context. Indeed, it has become one of the central models of theoretical physics, with applications in physics, chemistry, and biology that range far beyond the subject of this book. Transitions between molecular electronic states coupled to nuclear vibrations, environmental phonons, and photon modes of the radiation field fall within this class of problems. The present chapter discusses this model and some of its mathematical implications. The reader may note that some of the subjects discussed in Chapter 9 are reiterated here in this more general framework. In Sections 2.2 and 2.9 we have discussed the dynamics of the two-level system and of the harmonic oscillator, respectively. These exactly soluble models are often used as prototypes of important classes of physical system. The harmonic oscillator is an exact model for a mode of the radiation field and provides good starting points for describing nuclear motions in molecules and in solid environments. It can also describe the short-time dynamics of liquid environments via the instantaneous normal mode approach. In fact, many linear response treatments in both classical and quantum dynamics lead to harmonic oscillator models: Linear response implies that forces responsible for the return of a system to equilibrium depend linearly on the deviation from equilibrium—a harmonic oscillator property! We will see a specific example of this phenomenology in our discussion of dielectric response in Section 16.9.

*Keywords:*
Born–Oppenheimer (BO) approximation, Condon approximation, Energy gap law, Franck–Condon factors, Orbach mechanism, Rabi frequency, boson field, detailed balance, nuclear tunneling, polaron transformation

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