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Maxwell stress tensor

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(October 2009)

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The Maxwell Stress Tensor is a second rank tensor used in classical electromagnetism to represent the interaction between electric/magnetic forces and mechanical momentum. In simple situations, such as a point charge moving freely in a homogeneous magnetic field, it is easy to calculate the forces on the charge from the Lorentz force law. When the situation

becomes more complicated, t is ordi ary procedure can become impossibly di icult, wit equations spanning multiple lines. It is t erefore convenient to collect many of t ese terms in t e Maxwell stress tensor, and to use tensor arit metic to find t e answer to t e problem at hand.

Contents
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1 Motivation 2 Equation 3 Magnetism only 4 See also 5 References

 Moti

tion

Maxwell s equations in SI units (for handy reference) Name Di erential form Gauss's law Gauss's law for magnetism Maxwell araday equation (Faraday's law of induction) Ampre's circuital law (with Maxwell's correction) If we start out with the Lorent force law, and write down the force per unit volume for an unknown charge distribution, the motivation for the Maxwell stress tensor becomes apparent.

can This is the differential form of the Lorent force law, the usual be obtained by integrating over the volume. If we now useMaxwell's equations we can replace and so that only the fields and are used:

where we have used Gauss' law and Ampre's law. Now, using the product rule, we can rewrite the time derivative to something that can be interpreted physically, namely the Poynting vector. We observe that

, or collecting terms with and we have

. Notice that a term seems to be "missing" from the symmetry. We can, however, add this term to achieve symmetry since Gauss' law for magnetism tells us that . This leaves us with

. This would be relatively straightforward to calculate if we only could get rid of those curls, which are more demanding. Fortunately we have the curl identity, , so we end up with

. This expression contains every aspect of electromagnetism and momentum and is relatively easy to compute. It can be written more compactly by introducing the Maxwell stress tensor,

, and notice that all but the last term of the above can be written as the di ergence of this:

, where we have finally introduced the Poynting vector,

 Equation
In physics, the Maxwell stress tensor is the stress tensor of an electromagnetic field. As derived above in SI units, it is given by:

, where is the electric constant and 0 is the magnetic constant, is the electric field, is the magnetic field and ij is Kronecker's delta. In Gaussian (CGS) units, more commonly used in physics textbooks, it is given by:

An alternative way of expressing this tensor is:

, where a dyadic product is supposed between each of the vectors The element ij of the Maxwell stress tensor has units of momentum per unit of area times time and gives the flux of momentum parallel to the ith axis crossing a surface normal to the jth axis (in the negative direction) per unit of time. These units can also be seen as units of force per unit of area (negative pressure), and theij element of the tensor can also be interpreted as the force parallel to the ith axis suffered by a surface normal to the jth axis per unit of area. Indeed the diagonal elements give thetension (pulling) acting on a differential area element normal to the corresponding axis. Unlike forces due to the pressure of an ideal gas, an area element in the electromagnetic field also feels a force in a direction that is not normal to the element. This shear is given by the off -diagonal elements of the stress tensor.

 Magnetism onl

If the field is only magnetic (which is largely true in motors, for instance), some of the terms drop out, and the equation in SI units becomes:

For cylindrical objects, such as the rotor of a motor, this is further simplified to:

Where r is the shear in the radial (outward from the cylinder) direction, and t is the shear in the tangential (around the cylinder) direction. It is the tangential force which spins the motor. Br is the flux density in the radial direction, and Bt is the flux density in the tangential direction.