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Department of Physics
Physics II (8.022) – Prof. J. McGreevy – Fall 2010

Problem Set 10
Electromagnetic Waves

Based on: Lecture 19

Assigned reading: Purcell §9.1-9.6

Due: Monday, November 29, 2010 at 5:00 PM in your section’s lock box.

1. Circularly polarized wave. [25 points] An electromagnetic plane wave is

traveling in the +z direction. It has a wavelength of λ centimeters. The time-
averaged energy density of the wave is uavg ergs cm−3 . The wave is circularly
polarized, in the sense that an observer who faces the incoming wave sees the
electric field vector rotating clockwise. For an observer at the origin, at time
t = 0, the electric field vector points in the +x direction.
(a) Write an equation for the electric field, E(x, y, z, t), in terms of the given
quantities (and fundamental constants).
(b) Write an equation for the magnetic field, B(x, y, z, t), in terms of the given
quantities (and fundamental constants).
This wave impinges on a flat, square detector of area A. The detector is oriented
perpendicular to the z-axis.
(c) Suppose the detector is made of a material that absorbs 100% of the inci-
dent radiation. What is the time-averaged force that the wave exerts on the
(d) Suppose instead that the detector is made of a material that reflects 100%
of the incident radiation. What is the time-averaged force that the incident
wave exerts on the detector?

2. Purcell, problem 9.8: Standing waves. [15 points]

3. Solar radiation pressure. [15 points]

In this problem you will carry out order-of-magnitude calculations about ra-
diation pressure in the Solar system. Some helpful numbers: the mass of the

Sun is ≈ 1033 × 2 g and its total radiative power output is P ≈ 1033 × 4 erg
s−1 . The Earth orbits the Sun at a distance of about 108 × 1.5 km and Pluto
is ≈ 40 times more distant from the Sun.
(a) Does radiation pressure affect the trajectories of natural objects orbiting
the Sun? To be specific, consider a sphere of material with radius a and mass
density ρ. What is the condition on a and ρ such that the force of radiation
pressure will be larger than the force of gravity? How does this criterion depend
on the distance from the Sun? Evaluate the critical value of a for the density
of rock, ρ ≈ 5 g cm−3 . Is radiation pressure important for planets? Asteroids?
Dust grains?
(b) [EXTRA CHALLENGE: 10 extra points] Is it plausible to use radiation
pressure to propel a space ship around the Solar system? To be specific, suppose
the mass of the space ship is 1000 kg, and it has a circular sail made of a
lightweight, perfectly reflective material. To explore the Solar system within
a reasonable time (say, 30 years), how big would the sail need to be? You
need not worry about the exact orbital trajectory of your spacecraft; perform
the simplest possible calculation that you think will get the right order of

4. Poynting vector for a coaxial cable. [20 points]

A coaxial cable transmits DC power from a battery to some resistance load
(see Fig. 1). The cable consists of two concentric, long, hollow cylinders of
zero resistance. The inner cylinder has a radius a, and the outer cylinder
has a radius b. The length of the cable is L. The battery provides an EMF E
between the two conductors at one end of the cable, and the load is a resistance
R connected between the two conductors at the other end.
(a) Calculate the power P dissipated in the resistor.
[Hint: This is an easy question.]
~ r ).
(b) Calculate the Poynting vector field S(~
(c) Show that S ~ · d~a = P , where the area integral is over the cross-section of
the coaxial cable, and P is the power calculated in part a).
(d) Suppose the polarity of the battery is reversed. Does this change any of
your previous answers?

5. Transmission line. [15 points]

Fig. 1: Coaxial cable.

Two long rectangular conductors of width w and separation s can be used to

form a waveguide as shown in Figure 3. An electromagnetic wave sent into
the gap between the conductors will be transmitted without losing much of its
energy (only to fringing fields). (Note that a coaxial cable, as in problem 2, is
a better waveguide than this one.)

Fig. 2: The rectangular waveguide. The plates extend far into the z direction, which
is the direction in which we want to send the wave.

By the way, a waveguide like this was used in the microwave interference exper-
iment in lecture. A cartoon of that waveguide (with field lines of a microwave
going through it) is depicted in Figure 4. Using bent conductors, we can make
the wave turn corners!

Fig. 4: The waveguide used in the microwave interference demo.

Returning to the much simpler waveguide of Figure 3:

(a) Find the inductance per unit length λ of the pair of conductors in terms of
w, s and constants of nature. Find the capacitance per unit length γ. What is
√1 ?

(b) A way to send a wave down the waveguide is to put an AC current across
the end of it. Suppose we put a driving voltage V (t) = V0 cos(ωt) across the
~ and B
near end of the waveguide. Find the electric and magnetic fields E ~ in
between the plates in terms of w, s, V0 and constants of nature.
[Hint: The information that the potential is changing should travel at the
speed of light in the z direction, so E and B should depend on z and t in the
combination z − ct.]
(c) Find the Poynting vector S.~
(d) We can associate an impedance Z to the waveguide, defined as for any
device in an AC circuit as Z ≡ V /I. The impedance matters when you want
to harvest the energy that you’ve sent down the pipe, e.g. to show pictures
on your television. Your television is effectively a resistor of some resistance
R connecting the two plates at the far end. If Z 6= R, the wave will reflect
awkwardly and make the picture all screwy; if Z = R, the television will just
act like a continuation of the waveguide. What resistance should your TV have
if you want to hook it up to this waveguide? (i.e. find the impedance Z ≡ V /I
of the waveguide.) Naturally, the attempt to prevent these awkward reflections
is called ‘impedance matching’.
[Hint: Use the fact that we know |E| = |B| in a wave solution to Maxwell’s
equations (e.g. in between the plates).]