Breaking of an atomic chain under stress is a collective many-particle tunneling phenomenon. We study classical dynamics in imaginary time by using a conformal mapping technique, and derive an analytic formula for the probability of breaking. The result covers a broad temperature interval and interpolates between two regimes: tunneling and thermal activation. Also, we consider the breaking induced by an ultrasonic wave propagating in the chain, and propose to observe it in a scanning tunneling microscopy experiment.
- Received 29 June 1994
- Published in the issue dated 17 July 1995
© 1995 The American Physical Society