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Angular Momentum of the Electromagnetic Field: The Plane Wave Paradox Resolved

Stewart, Andrew


The angular momentum of a classical electromagnetic plane wave of arbitrary extent is predicted to be, on theoretical grounds, exactly zero. However, finite sections of circularly polarized plane waves are found experimentally to carry angular momentum, and it is known that the contribution to the angular momentum arises from the edges of the beam. A mathematical model is described that gives a quantitative account of this effect and resolves the paradox.

CollectionsANU Research Publications
Date published: 2005
Type: Journal article
Source: European Journal of Physics
DOI: 10.1088/0143-0807/26/4/008


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