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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

5 - Electromagnetic waves


This chapter will discuss the electromagnetic wave as a most important example of the general treatment of wave propagation presented in Chapter 2. We shall start at the point where the elementary features of classical electricity and magnetism have been summarized in the form of Maxwell's equations, and the reader's familiarity with the steps leading to this formulation will be assumed (see, for example, Grant and Phillips (1990), Jackson (1999), Franklin (2005)). It is well known that Maxwell's formulation included for the first time the displacement current ∂D/∂t, the time derivative of the fictitious displacement field D = ∈0E+P, which is a combination of the applied electric field E and the electric polarization density P. This field will turn out to be of prime importance when we come to extend the treatment in this chapter to wave propagation in anisotropic media in Chapter 6.

In this chapter we shall learn:

about the properties of electromagnetic waves in isotropic linear media;

about simple-harmonic waves with planar wavefronts;

about radiation of electromagnetic waves;

the way in which these waves behave when they meet the boundaries between media: the Fresnel coefficients for reflection and transmission;

about optical tunnelling and frustrated total internal reflection;

about electromagnetic waves in conducting media;

some consequences of the time-reversal symmetry of Maxwell's equations;

about electromagnetic momentum, radiation pressure and optical tweezers;

about angular momentum of waves that have spiral wavefronts, instead of the usual plane wavefronts;