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Optics Express

Optics Express

  • Editor: Michael Duncan
  • Vol. 13, Iss. 14 — Jul. 11, 2005
  • pp: 5315–5324

Optics InfoBase > Optics Express > Volume 13 > Issue 14 > Angular momentum of circularly polarized light in dielectric media

Angular momentum of circularly polarized light in dielectric media

Masud Mansuripur  »View Author Affiliations

Optics Express, Vol. 13, Issue 14, pp. 5315-5324 (2005)

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A circularly polarized plane-wave is known to have no angular momentum when examined through Maxwell’s equations. This, however, contradicts the experimentally observed facts, where finite segments of plane waves are known to be capable of imparting angular momentum to birefringent platelets. Using a superposition of four plane-waves propagating at slightly different angles to a common direction, we derive an expression for the angular momentum density of a single plane-wave in the limit when the propagation directions of the four beams come into alignment. We proceed to use this four-beam technique to analyze the conservation of angular momentum when a plane-wave enters a dielectric slab from the free space. The angular momentum of the beam is shown to decrease upon entering the dielectric medium, by virtue of the fact that the incident beam exerts a torque on the slab surface at the point of entry. When the beam leaves the slab, it imparts an equal but opposite torque to the exit facet, thus recovering its initial angular momentum upon re-emerging into the free-space. Along the way, we derive an expression for the outward-directed force of a normally incident, finite-diameter beam on a dielectric surface; the possible relationship between this force and the experimentally observed bulging of a liquid surface under intense illumination is explored.

© 2005 Optical Society of America

OCIS Codes
(140.7010) Lasers and laser optics : Laser trapping
(260.2110) Physical optics : Electromagnetic optics

ToC Category:
Research Papers

Original Manuscript: June 2, 2005
Revised Manuscript: June 18, 2005
Published: July 11, 2005

Masud Mansuripur, "Angular momentum of circularly polarized light in dielectric media," Opt. Express 13, 5315-5324 (2005)

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