Colloquium: Momentum of an electromagnetic wave in dielectric media

Pfeifer, Robert N. C., Nieminen, Timo A., Heckenberg, Norman R. and Rubinsztein-Dunlop, Halina (2007) Colloquium: Momentum of an electromagnetic wave in dielectric media. Reviews of Modern Physics, 79 4: 1197-1216. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.79.1197

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Author Pfeifer, Robert N. C.
Nieminen, Timo A.
Heckenberg, Norman R.
Rubinsztein-Dunlop, Halina
Title Colloquium: Momentum of an electromagnetic wave in dielectric media
Formatted title
Colloquium: Momentum of an electromagnetic wave in dielectric media
Journal name Reviews of Modern Physics   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0034-6861
Publication date 2007-10-01
Year available 2007
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1103/RevModPhys.79.1197
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 79
Issue 4
Start page 1197
End page 1216
Total pages 20
Editor Achim Richter
Place of publication College Park, MD, United States
Publisher American Physical Society
Collection year 2008
Language eng
Abstract Almost 100 years ago, two different expressions were proposed for the energy-momentum tensor of an electromagnetic wave in a dielectric. Minkowski's tensor predicted an increase in the linear momentum of the wave on entering a dielectric medium, whereas Abraham's tensor predicted its decrease. Theoretical arguments were advanced in favor of both sides, and experiments proved incapable of distinguishing between the two. Yet more forms were proposed, each with their advocates who considered the form that they were proposing to be the one true tensor. This paper reviews the debate and its eventual conclusion: that no electromagnetic wave energy-momentum tensor is complete on its own. When the appropriate accompanying energy-momentum tensor for the material medium is also considered, experimental predictions of all various proposed tensors will always be the same, and the preferred form is therefore effectively a matter of personal choice.
Keyword Electromagnetic momentum
Abraham-Minkowski controversy
Finite Rest Masses
Radiation Pressure
Polarized Media
Static Fields
Refracting Medium
Linear Momentum
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