Production of a sterile species: Quantum kinetics
Production of a sterile species is studied within an effective model of active-sterile neutrino mixing in a medium in thermal equilibrium. The quantum kinetic equations for the distribution functions and coherences are obtained from two independent methods: the effective action and the quantum master equation. The decoherence time scale for active-sterile oscillations is tau(dec)=2/Gamma(aa), but the evolution of the distribution functions is determined by the two different time scales associated with the damping rates of the quasiparticle modes in the medium: Gamma(1)=Gamma(aa)cos^2theta(m); Gamma(2)=Gamma(aa)sin^2theta(m) where Gamma(aa) is the interaction rate of the active species in the absence of mixing and theta(m) the mixing angle in the medium. These two time scales are widely different away from Mikheyev-Smirnov-Wolfenstein resonances and preclude the kinetic description of active-sterile production in terms of a simple rate equation. We give the complete set of quantum kinetic equations for the active and sterile populations and coherences and discuss in detail the various approximations. A generalization of the active-sterile transition probability in a medium is provided via the quantum master equation. We derive explicitly the usual quantum kinetic equations in terms of the "polarization vector" and show their equivalence to those obtained from the quantum master equation and effective action.