Concept

# Angular momentum coupling

Summary
In quantum mechanics, the procedure of constructing eigenstates of total angular momentum out of eigenstates of separate angular momenta is called angular momentum coupling. For instance, the orbit and spin of a single particle can interact through spin–orbit interaction, in which case the complete physical picture must include spin–orbit coupling. Or two charged particles, each with a well-defined angular momentum, may interact by Coulomb forces, in which case coupling of the two one-particle angular momenta to a total angular momentum is a useful step in the solution of the two-particle Schrödinger equation. In both cases the separate angular momenta are no longer constants of motion, but the sum of the two angular momenta usually still is. Angular momentum coupling in atoms is of importance in atomic spectroscopy. Angular momentum coupling of electron spins is of importance in quantum chemistry. Also in the nuclear shell model angular momentum coupling is ubiquitous. In astronomy, spin–orbit coupling reflects the general law of conservation of angular momentum, which holds for celestial systems as well. In simple cases, the direction of the angular momentum vector is neglected, and the spin–orbit coupling is the ratio between the frequency with which a planet or other celestial body spins about its own axis to that with which it orbits another body. This is more commonly known as orbital resonance. Often, the underlying physical effects are tidal forces. Conservation of angular momentum is the principle that the total angular momentum of a system has a constant magnitude and direction if the system is subjected to no external torque. Angular momentum is a property of a physical system that is a constant of motion (also referred to as a conserved property, time-independent and well-defined) in two situations: The system experiences a spherically symmetric potential field. The system moves (in quantum mechanical sense) in isotropic space. In both cases the angular momentum operator commutes with the Hamiltonian of the system.