# Angular Momentum of the Plane Wave Electromagnetic Field

Mohit Raghuwanshi August 19, 2009
Abstract From the classical point of view, the angular momentum of an electromagnetic wave comes out to be equal to zero. But experimentally it is found that they do carry angular momentum, not in an actual form but in a potential form. This paper provides the possible expressions concerning diﬀernt components of angular momentum carried by a Plane wave. I will be using Helmholtz theorem to decompose the angular momentum of classical electromagnetic ﬁeld into a spin component and an angular component. This paper provides the mathematical model and ﬁnally proves the existence of angular momentum in a plane wave.

Introduction
For a plane wave propagating in the +ve z direction, the electric & magnetic ﬁelds lie in the x-y plane. And the Poynting vector S=E×B which also lies in the +ve z direction. The angular momentum J(t) of the classical electromagnetic ﬁeld[1] in terms of electric & magnetic ﬁelds is given as: J(t) =
1 4πc

´

d3 rr×[E(r,t)×B(r,t)]

. . .(1)

in gaussian units (bold font here denotes the three vector) From the above equation it seems that the component of the angular momentum in the direction of propagation must be zero, due to the vector cross product of r with E×B in (1). For paraxial waves, which comprise a beam of limited radius such as that produced by a laser, this is clearly not the case and 1

the angular momentum properties of these [[2][3][4][5]] have been analyzed in detail. As we can see that above equation is written in very crude sense i.e. the equation doesn’t really tell much about the angular momentum in detail. In this paper we would express the respective expressions of spin and orbital angular momentum using Helmholtz equation and some mathematical models with help from the russian scientiﬁc paper “Angular momentum of the electromagnetic ﬁeld: the plane wave paradox resolved” published by A. M. Stewart.

Body
We can express the electric ﬁeld vector as the sum of its transverse component and the longitudinal component using Helmholtz theorem[6] as: ´ E(r,t)= × dV’
×E(r ,t) − 4π|r-r’|

´

dV

.E(r ,t) 4π|r−r |

. . .(2)

applying Maxwell’s equations to above we get ´ 3 ρ(r ,t) E(r,t)= ×F d r |r−r | Where, ρ(r , t) is the electric charge density and

. . . (3)

´ ∂B(r’,t)/∂t F(r,t)= - d3 r 4πc|r−r |

. . .(4)

substituting E(r,t) from eqn 3 to eqn 1, we will obtain one term corresponding F and another term corresponding charge density. Properties of the terms corresponding charge densities are already examined and it is not discussed further here[7]. The ﬁrst term left is expression with F, or we may call it Jf ,which is equal to Jf =
1 4πc

´

d3 rr×[( ×F) × B]

. . .(5)

We may split the term inside bracket as:

2

3

( ×F)×B = (B. )F r=1

Br F r

. . . (6)

(above can be easily derived by splitting B and F in their respective cartesian cordinates); substituting eqn 6 back to eqn 5, we get two terms the ﬁrst term Jf s can be solved using the identity: (B. )(r×F) = B×F + r×(B. )F Hence, Jf s =
1 4πc

. . .(7)

´

d3 rF×B +

1 4πc

´

d3 r(B. )G

. . .(8)

where G= r×F The second term in above equation can be solved by introducing a tensor T=BG in dyadic form as:
3

T=BG =
r,i=1

rB

r

Gi

i

. . . (9)

where T as:

r

is the unit vector in the r direction. Considering the divergence of

.T =

∂ r i r . r ∂xr (B G ) i

. . .(10)

Taking derivatives explicitly from eqn 10 and from Maxwell equation divergence of B=0, we get .T = (B. )G . . . (11)

and the second integral term from eqn 8 is nothing but:
1 4πc

´
v

d3 r .T

. . . (12)

using Gauss’s law we get 3

1 4πc

´
v

d3 r .T =

1 4πc

´
s

ds.T

. . . (13)

Finally we can write equation 8 as Jf s =
1 4πc

´
v

d3 rF×B +

1 4πc

´
s

(ds.B)G

. . . (14)

substituting expressions of F and G back in above equation, we get ﬁnally ´
v

Jf s = . . . (15)

1 (4πc)2

d3 r

´
v

d3 r

B(r,t) ∂B(r ,t) |r−r | × ∂t

-

1 (4πc)2

´
s

d2 r.B(r,t)

´
v

1 d3 r r× ∂B(r ,t) |r−r | ∂t

As we can see from above equation that the ﬁrst term is not directly proportional to the cordinate vectors (i.e. there is no term containing r in the numerator) so, displays the nature of spin angular momentum. Second term in equation 15 can be ignored if volume is extended to inﬁnity, this is well justiﬁed in[8]. Going back to the second term in equation 6, when substituted in (1) gives another nature of angular momentum as: ´
3

1 Jf o = − 4πc

d3 rr× v
n=1

Bn F n

. . .(16)

using equation 4 and solving the above we ﬁnally get Jf o =
1 (4πc)2

´
v

d3 r

´
v

r×r d3 r [B(r, t). ∂B(r ,t) ] |r−r |3 ∂t

. . .(17)

The above equation explictly shows that this component of angular momentum contains a factor that is proportional to the cordinate vectors (here in this equation r×r’), so we can say that the above equation is nothing but the expression for the orbital angular momentum. Summarising the above mathematical stuﬀs, we now have two diﬀerent nature of angular momentum namely spin and orbital and other not discussed here. Thus now we have seperated the one single equation into diﬀerent components, 4

each belonging to diﬀerent nature of angular momentum.

Plane Waves
Aim of this paper is to derive expressions of diﬀerent components of angular momentum concerning plane waves, so we may now apply this prepared stuﬀ in case of plane waves. For a plane wave propagating in the positive z direction and satisfying Maxwells equations, the electric and magnetic ﬁelds does depend on each other as: Ex = By & Ey = −Bx , so there is always a corresponding ﬁxed magnetic ﬁeld for any given magnitude and direction of magnetic ﬁeld. So, if we take E(r,t) as E(r,t) = B[cos(ωt − k.r − α)i - cos(ωt − k.r)j] we would get corresponding expression for B(r,t) as B(r,t) = B[cos(ωt − k.r)i+cos(ωt − k.r − α)j] . . .(19)

. . .(18)

where α is a constant corresponding to the polarization of the electromagnetic wave, in our case considering the linear polarization of the wave we can write α=0. Taking derivative of the above equation we get
∂B(r,t) ∂t

= −ωB[sin(ωt − k.r)i+sin(ωt − k.r)]

. . . (20)

From equation 4 we get the expression for F in x direction as: Fx (r,t) =
ωB 4πc

´

d3 r

(sinωtcosk.r −cosωtsink.r ) |r−r |

. . . (21)

To calculate the above integrals, we may use the standard integral ´ d3 r
cosk.r |r−r |

=

4π k2 cosk.r

and

´

d3 r

sink.r |r−r |

=

4π k2 sink.r

using the above standard integrals we ﬁnally get equation 21 as 5

Fx (r,t) =

B K sin(ωt

− kz)

similarly we get Fy as : Fy (r,t) =
B K sin(ωt

− kz − α)

Combining the above two, we ﬁnally get F(r,t) =
B K [sin(ωt

− kz)i+sin(ωt − kz − α)j]

. . . (22)

taking cross product of F and B using equation 19 and 22, we ﬁnally get F×B=
1 2 k B (sinα)

(z)

. . . (23)

Similarly we can obtain the expression corresponding spin angular momentum for the plane waves as: Jf s =
B2 V 4πω

sinα (z)

. . . (24)

where V is the volume of integration. Energy of the wave is equal toVB2 /4π. Hence the ratio of spin angular momentum density to energy density is (sinα)/ω, independent of volume as proved by experiment of Beth[9]. Jf o = 0 ; as .F = in z direction r×( .F ) = not in z direction so, orbital component of the angular momentum comes out to be zero in the direction of propagation of the wave.

. . . (25)

Discussions
We ﬁnally succeded in splitting the spin angular momentum terms and orbital angular momentum terms of a free electromagnetic ﬁeld. Firstly we obtained a component with spin character (equation 15) and a surface integral 6

(not discussed here). This is done by decomposing the electric ﬁeld into its transverse and longitudinal component using the Helmholtz theorem. Finally we applied those conditions for plane waves and we get two terms of spin angular momentum and orbital angular momentum repectively for the case of plane waves (equations 24 and 25), also a surface integral term (not discussed here). The ﬁnal results we obtained is clearly consistent with the arguement given in equation 1 that plane wave of arbitrary extent has no angular momentum.

References
[1] Jackson J D 1999 Classical Electrodynamics (New York: Wiley) [2] Allen L, Padgett M J and Babiker M 1999 in Progress in Optics edited by Wolf E (Amsterdam: Elsevier) Vol 39 p 291-72 [3] Allen L, Beijersbergen M W, Spreeuw R J C and Woerdman J P 1992 Orbital angular momentum of light and the transformation of Laguerre-Gaussian laser modes Phys. Rev. A 45 8185-89 [4] Padgett M P and Allen L 2000 Light with a twist in its tail Contemp. Phys. 41 275-85 [5] Allen L and Padgett M J 2000 The Poynting vector in Laguerre-Gaussian beams and the interpretation of their angular momentum density Optics Communications 184 67-71 [6] Rohrlich F 2004 The validity of the Helmholtz theorem Am. J. Phys. 72 412-13 [7] Stewart A M 2005 Angular momentum of light J. Mod. Opt. 52 (8) 1145-1154 [8] Stewart A.M., 2005, Angular momentum of the electromagnetic ﬁeld: the plane wave paradox resolved. European Journal of Physics, 26 (4) 635-641 (2005). [9] Beth, R.A., 1936, Mechanical detection and measurement of the angular momentum of light, Physical Review, 50, 115-125.

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