self-consistent field

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A concept used to find approximate solutions to the many-body problem in quantum mechanics. The procedure starts with an approximate solution for a particle moving in a single-particle potential, which derives from its average interaction with all the other particles. This average interaction is determined by the wave functions of all the other particles. The equation describing this average interaction is solved and the improved solution obtained is used in the calculation of the interaction term. This procedure is repeated for wave functions until the wave functions and associated energies are not significantly changed in the cycle, self-consistency having been attained. In atomic theory the Hartree-Fock procedure makes use of self-consistent fields.

Subjects: Chemistry.

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