We identify two different processes by which free atoms are ionized in a static electric field. The first process is by tunneling and is described accurately by theory developed for hydrogen. The second process, important for all atoms except hydrogen, is similar to autoionization and arises from the effect of level mixing. Data are presented on field ionization in lithium which display behavior due to each of these ionization mechanisms.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Physics and Astronomy