May 06, 2000
The concept of particle weights has been introduced by Buchholz and the author in order to obtain a unified treatment of particles as well as (charged) infraparticles which do not permit a definition of mass and spin according to Wigner's theory. Particle weights arise as temporal limits of physical states in the vacuum sector and describe the asymptotic particle content. Following a thorough analysis of the underlying notion of localizing operators, we give a precise definition of this concept and investigate the characteristic properties. The decomposition of particle weights into pure components which are linked to irreducible representations of the quasi-local algebra has been a long-standing desideratum that only recently found its solution. We set out two approaches to this problem by way of disintegration theory, making use of a physically motivated assumption concerning the structure of phase space in quantum field theory. The significance of the pure particle weights ensuing from this disintegration is founded on the fact that they exhibit features of improper energy-momentum eigenstates, analogous to Dirac's conception, and permit a consistent definition of mass and spin even in an infraparticle situation.