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We examine the spontaneous breakdown of the matter vacuum triggered by an external force of arbitrary strength and spatial and temporal variations. We derive a nonperturbative framework that permits the computation of the complete time evolution of various multiple electron-positron pair probabilities. These time-dependent probabilities can be computed from a generating function as well as from solutions to a set of ratelike equations with coupling constants determined by the single-particle solutions to the time-dependent Dirac equation. This approach might be of relevance to the planned experiments to observe for the first time the laser-induced breakdown process of the vacuum.


Originally published in Physical Review A by the American Physical Society.