# Electromagnetic Waves

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In the absence of any source of charge or current, Maxwell’s equations in free space are as follows : ∇·E = 0 ∇·B = 0 (1) (2) (3) (4)

∂B ∂t ∂E ∇ × B = ǫ0 µ0 ∂t ∇×E = −

The last two equations couple the electric and the magnetic ﬁelds. If B is time dependent, ∇ × E is non-zero. This implies that E is a function of position. Further, if ∂ B/∂t itself changes with time, so does ∇ × E . In such a case E also varies with time since the ∇ operator cannot cause time variation. Thus, in general, a time varying magnetic ﬁeld gives rise to an electric ﬁeld which varies both in space and time. It will be seen that these coupled ﬁelds propagate in space. We will ﬁrst examine whether the equations lead to transverse waves. For simplicity, assume that the electric ﬁeld has only x-component and the magnetic ﬁeld only y-component. Note that we are only making an assumption regarding their directions – the ﬁelds could still depend on all the space coordinates x, y, z , in addition to time t. Gauss’s law gives ∂Ex ∂Ey ∂Ez ∇·E = + + =0 ∂x ∂y ∂z Since only Ex = 0, this implies ∂Ex =0 ∂x Thus Ex is independent of x coordinate and can be written as Ex (y, z, t). A similar analysis shows that By is independent of y coordinate and can be written explicitly as By (x, z, t). Consider now the time dependent equations eqns. (3) and (4). The curl equation for B gives, taking z-component ∂Ez ∂By ∂Bx − = =0 ∂x ∂y ∂t 1

(4) ∂Ex ∂By = − ∂z ∂t ∂By ∂Ex − = µ0 ǫ0 ∂z ∂t (5) (6) To get the wave equation for Ex . The direction of propagation is thus z −direction. We get ∂ 2 By ∂ 2 By = µ0 ǫ0 2 ∂z 2 ∂t 2 ∂By ∂z ∂ 2 Ex = µ0 ǫ0 2 ∂t . take the derivative of eqn. take y-component of Eqn. In a similar manner we can show that Ex also depends only on z and t. Thus the ﬁelds E and B do not vary in the plane containing them. (3) and x-component of Eqn. −∂ 2 By ∂ ∂ 2 Ex = µ0 ǫ0 =− 2 ∂z ∂z∂t ∂t Similarly. this gives B B E E Z X To see that propagation is really a wave disturbance. (6) and interchange the space and time derivatives.∂By =0 ∂x showing that By is independent of x and hence depends only on z and t. Their only variation takes place along the z-axis which is perpendicular to both E and B . we can show. (5) with respect to z and substitute in eqn. Y Since Bx = 0.

the speed of electromagnetic waves in vacuum is 3 × 108 m/sec. In this case it is x-z plane. This corresponds to a polarized wave. reaching their maximum and minimum values at the same time. Consider plane harmonic waves of angular frequency ω and wavlength λ = 2π/k . We can express the waves as Ex = E0 sin(kz − ωt) By = B0 sin(kz − ωt) The amplitudes E0 an B0 are not independent as they must satisfy eqns. The ﬁgure shows a harmonic plane wave ˆ propagating in the z-direction. The electric ﬁeld oscillates in the x-z plane and the magnetic ﬁeld oscillates in the y-z plane.Each of the above equations represents a wave disturbance propagating in the zdirection with a speed 1 c= √ µ0 ǫ0 On substituting numerical values. (5) and (6) : ∂Ex = E0 k cos(kz − ωt) ∂z ∂By = −B0 ω cos(kz − ωt) ∂t Using Eqn. B and the direction of propagation k form a right handed triad. the plane in which the electric ﬁeld oscillates is deﬁned as the plane of polarization. Note that E. 3 . Conventionally. (5) we get E0 k = B0 ω The ratio of the electric ﬁeld amplitude to the magnetic ﬁeld amplitude is given by ω E0 = =c B0 k Fields E and B are in phase.

Circular and Elliptic Polarization : 4 . Solution : Comparing with the standard form for a harmonic wave ω = 2π × 108 rad/s k = 2π × 108 /c so that λ = c/108 = 3 m.Ex ct z By Example : The electric ﬁeld of a plane electromagnetic wave in vacuum is Ey = 0. the direction of propagation is x-direction. Strength of Determine the electric ﬁeld and the plane of polarization. Determine the magnetic ﬁeld. Determine the state of polarization and the direction of propagation of the wave. Since B must be perpendicular to both the electric ﬁeld direction and the direction of propagation.66 × 10−9 cos[2π × 108 (t − x/c)] T Exercise : The magnetic ﬁeld of a plane electromagnetic wave is given by By = Bz = 10−8 sin[ 2π x − 2π × 108 t] T 3 (Ans. Ex = Ez = 0. √ electric ﬁeld is 3 2 V/m) Plane. B has only z-component with an amplitude B0 = E0 /c ≃ 1. this is the plane of polarization. Thus Bz = 1. Since the electric ﬁeld oscillates in x-y plane.5 cos[2π × 108 (t − x/c)] V/m.66 × 10−9 T.

any linear combination of two solutions of the wave equation is also a solution of the wave equation. If it so happens that the successive directions of E (and hence B ) remains parallel. This does not imply that the direction of these ﬁelds are constant in time.. y E− parallel to x−direction y E inclined at an angle θto x−axis Z y θ E parallel to y−direction X Z Z X X A plane polarized wave propagating in z-direction can be described by an electric ﬁeld given by E =0 sin ωtn ˆ = E0 sin ωt cos θˆ i + E0 sin ωt sin θˆ j We know that because of linearity of the wave equation. (Equivalently. the electric vectors at different points in space along the direction of propagation at a given time will lie in a plane. Such a situation is called a plane polarized wave. viz. the directions of electric vectors at a given point in space at different times will be parallel). This allows us to construc new states of polarization of the electromagnetic wave 5 .We have shown that E and B lies in a plane perpendicular to the direction of propagation. the plane of polarization.

The state of polarization is known as circular polarization. we have Ex = a sin ωt Ey = b cos ωt so that the equation to the trajectory is given by 2 2 Ey Ex + 2 =1 a2 b 6 . Suppose we have two plane polarized waves of equal amplitude one with the electric vector parallel to the x-direction and the other parallel to y-direction. y ω t=0 ωt ωt ω t=π /2 x ω t=π /2 x y ω t=0 Right Circularly polarized Left Circularly polarized In the same way if the two plane polarized solutions have a phase difference of π/2 but have different amplitudes a and b. the polarization is called right circularly polarized and if anticlokwise it is called left circularly polarized. which is also a solution of the wave equation. the two waves having a phase difference of π/2. Looking along the direction of propagation if the radius vector is moving clockwise. The resultant. In this case. has Ex = E0 sin ωt Ey = E0 cos ωt The tip of the resultant electric vector E describes a circle of radius E0 . which is independent of t. they produce what is known as elliptically polarized light.from the plane polarized wave.

it is convenient to use the complex exponential form f (r. we get ∇ × (∇ × E ) = − Using the operator identity ∇ × (∇ × E ) = ∇(∇ · E ) − ∇2 E = −∇2 E wherein we have used ∇ · E = 0. (1) to (4). On taking the curl of both sides of eqn. The derivative of f (r. t) is given as follows : ∂ ∂ f (r. (4) we get ∇2 E = µ0 ǫ0 ∂2E ∂t2 ∂ (∇ × B ) ∂t A three dimensional harmonic wave has the form sin(k · r − ωt) or cos(k · r − ωt) Instead of using the trigonometric form.y ω t=0 y ω t=0 ωt b b ωt ω t=π /2 a x ω t=π /2 a x Right Elliptically polarized Left Elliptically polarized Wave Equation in Three Dimensions : We can obtain the wave equation in three dimensions by using eqns. t) ∂x ∂x 7 . t) = exp(ikx x + iky y + ikz z − iωt) = ikx f (r. t) = exp(ik · r − ωt) and later take the real or imaginary part of the function as the case may be. and substituting eqn. (3).

t) ∂t Thus for our purpose. i. Clearly. In a similar way. A schematic diagram of Hertz’s set up is shown in the ﬁgure.Since ∂ ∂ ˆ∂ ∇=ˆ ı + ˆ +k ∂x ∂y ∂z ∇f (r. If ρ varies uniformly with time. if J = 0. time varying electric and magnetic ﬁelds may be generated if the current varies with time. The electric ﬁeld and the magnetic ﬁeld are perpendicular to each other and they are both perpendicular to the direction of propagation.e.e. the differential operators ∇ and ∂/∂t may be equivalently replaced by ∂ → −iω ∂t ∇ → ik Using these. 8 . ∂ f (r. the Maxwell’s equations in free space become k·E k·B k×B k×E = = = = 0 0 −µ0 ǫ0 E B (7) (8) (9) (10) We can see that E. Hertz conﬁrmed the existence of electromagnetic waves in 1888 using these principles. If ρ = constant. t) = ikf (r. i. we have steady currents which gives us both a steady electric ﬁeld as well as a magnetic ﬁeld. if the charges accelerate. we only have a steady electric ﬁeld. In the presence of sources. t) = −iωf (r. B and k form a mutually orthogonal triad. t) we have. the solutions become complicated.. Generation of Electromagnetic Waves : We have looked for solutions to Maxwell’s equations in free space which does not have any charge or current source.

which establishes charge oscillations at a fre√ quency of ω = 1/ LC . The apparatus consists of two brass plates connected to the terminals of a secondary of a transformer. As the primary circuit oscillates. the wavelength work out to be 300 km. It was soon realized that irrespective of their wavelength. oscillations are set up in the secondary circuit.Plate Primary Source Secondary Gap Plate The radiation will be appreciable only if the amplitude of oscillation of charge is comparable to the wavelength of radiation that it emits. viz. made the oscillating charges vibrate with a very high frequency. for assuming a vibrational frequency of 1000 cycles per second.. The primary consists of an LC oscillator circuit. Hertz. This rules out mechanical vibration. As a result. rapidly varying alternating potential difference is developed across the gap and electromagnetic waves are generated. the speed of light. all electromagnetic waves travel through empty space with the same speed. therefore. Hertz was able to produce waves having wavelength of 6m. 9 .

Poynting Vector : Electromagnetic waves. To its either side are the infrared from 700 nm to 0. electromagnetic waves are given different names.3 mm and the ultraviolet from 30 nm to 400 nm. The magnitude of S for the electromagnetic wave travelling in vacuum is given 10 . The ﬁgure shows the electromagnetic spectrum. can transport energy.03 nm. What is known as visible light is the narrow band of wavelength from 400 nm (blue) to 700 nm (red). The television broadcast takes place in a small range at the end of the microwave spectrum. In SI units S ismeasured in watt/m2. like any other wave. The power through a unit area in a direction normal to the area is given by Poynting vector. Those with wavelengths shorter than ultraviolet are generally called rays. Microwaves have longer wavelength than the infrared (0.Depending on their wavelength range. given by 1 S = E×B µ0 As E. Prominent among them are x-rays with wavelengths 0. the direction of S is along the direction of propagation. B and k form a right handed triad.03 nm t0 30 nm and γ -rays with wavelengths shorter than 0.3 mm to 300 mm) and the radio waves have wavelengths longer than 300 mm.

compute the magnitude of the electric and magnetic vectors in the sunlight.by EB E2 = µ0 cµ0 where we have used the relationship between E and B in free space. 30 V peak) Radiation Pressure : We have seen that electric ﬁeld. The corresponding rms value is obtained by dividing by 2. deﬁned as the intensity is given by substituting the value 1/2 for the average of the square of sine or cosine function S= I= 2 E0 2cµ0 Example : Earth receives 1300 watts per squar meter of solar energy. Erms = 700 V/m. store energy. Solution : From the expression for the average Poynting vector 2 E0 = 1300 2cµ0 which √ gives E0 = 989 V/m. assuming the energy to be in the form of plane electromagnetic waves. The energy density for the electric ﬁeld was seen to be (1/2)ǫ0 E 2 and that for the magnetic ﬁeld was found to be (1/2)B 2 /2µ0. we have E2 S = 0 sin2 (kx − ωt) cµ0 The average power transmitted per unit area. where E/B = c. Compute the electric ﬁeld at a distance of 2m from the lamp. 11 . Exercise : A 40 watt lamp radiates all its energy isotropically. electromagnetic waves carry momentum as well. the total energy density is B2 1 = ǫ0 E 2 u = ǫ0 E 2 + 2 2µ 0 where we have used c2 = 1/µ0ǫ0 . For the electromagnetic waves. In addition to carrying energy. For harmonic waves. (Ans. as well as magnetic ﬁeld. The magnetic ﬁeld strength is Brms = Erms /c = 2.33 × 10−6 T.

we have. we get 1 ∂2E ∂E ∇(∇ · D ) − ∇2 E = −µǫ 2 − µσ ǫ ∂t ∂t It may be noted that though ∇ · D term equals ρf . Thus. we need to include the effect due to conduction current. Waves in a conducting Medium : If the medium is conducting. Thus the wave equation that we have is ∂2E ∂E ∇ E = µǫ 2 + µσ ∂t ∂t 2 13 . The two curl equations become ∂B ∂H = −µ ∂t ∂t ∂D ∂E ∇×H = +J =ǫ + σE ∂t ∂t ∇×E = − where we have used Ohm’s law as another constitutive relation. ∇ × (∇ × E ) = −µ ∂ (∇ × H ) ∂t Using the expansion for ∇ × (∇ × E ) = ∇(∇ · E ) − ∇2 E . This may be seen from the equation of continuity. if they exist in a conductor soon depletes.Inside matter but in region where there are no sources. the charge drops exponentially to 1/e th of its value after a time ǫ/σ which is very small for conductors. free charges. Using ∂ρ = −∇ · J ∂t and using Ohm’s law one can see that if at time t = 0 there exists some free charge ρ0 f . the relevant equations are ∇·D = 0 ∇·B = 0 ∂B ∂t ∂D ∇×H = ∂t ∇×E = − √ which results in a travelling wave with speed v = 1/ ǫµ where B = µH and D = ǫH .

0002 for mica. 000 MHz. i. We may write γ = α + iβ . This implies ∂E/∂t −→ −iωE and ∂ 2 E/∂t2 −→ −ωE . For good conductors this ratio is much larger than 1 over the entire radio frequency spectrum. We have.and a similar equation for H . For instance. Cu has σ/ωǫ ≃ 108 while for the same frequency this ratio is 0. σ E is conduction current density while the term iωǫE is the displacement current density. most generators produce voltages and currents which vary sinusoidally. This suggest that the value of the ratio σ/ωǫ is a good measure to divide whether a material is a dielectric or a metal.e. For good conductors. The wave equation becomes ∇2 H = µǫ ∇2 E = −µǫω 2 E + iµσωE ≡ γ 2 E where γ 2 = −µǫω 2 + iµσω is a complex constant. When we take the square root of γ 2 and write it as γ we assume that α and β are positive. we can see that α and β have the same sign. ∂2H ∂t + µσ 2 ∂t ∂t In practice. squaring and equating it to the expression for γ 2 . in this limit α=β= The velocity of the wave in the conductor is v= ω = β 14 2ω µσ ωσµ 2 . One can explicitly show that α=ω µǫ  σ2 1 + 2 2 − 1 2 ω ǫ σ2 µǫ  1 + 2 2 + 1 2 ω ǫ     β=ω We have seen that in Maxwell’s equation. we take σ/ωǫ ≫ 1. at a frequency as high as 30. Corresponding electric and magnetic ﬁelds also vary simusoidally with time.

Depth of penetration or skin depth δ is deﬁned as the distance at which an eletromagnetic wave would have attenuated to 1/e of its value on the surface. δ= 1 = α 2 ωµσ For conductors like copper this distance is typically less than a fraction of a millimeter. 15 .The wave is greatly attenuated inside a conductor.