A New Teaching Approach
To Quantum Mechanical Tunneling

Physics Department
University of Richmond, Virginia, 23173


The transfer matrix method has been used to investigate quantum mechanical tunneling in introductory quantum mechanics. The method is applied first to calculate the transmission coefficient for tunneling through a rectangular barrier and is then extended to the problem of potential barriers of arbitrary shape, in particular, to radioactive decay. This approach uses matrix methods that are accessible to a broader range of undergraduates than other numerical techniques, the connection between the rectangular barrier problem and potential barriers of arbitrary shape is transparent, and it can be readily executed by undergraduates. The classroom experience with this approach is discussed.