We derive the force of the electromagnetic radiation on material objects by a direct application of the Lorentz law of classical electro-dynamics. The derivation is straightforward in the case of solid metals and solid dielectrics, where the mass density and the optical constants of the media are assumed to remain unchanged under internal and external pressures, and where material flow and deformation can be ignored. For metallic mirrors, we separate the contribution to the radiation pressure of the electrical charge density from that of the current density of the conduction electrons. In the case of dielectric media, we examine the forces experienced by bound charges and currents, and determine the contribution of each to the radiation pressure. These analyses reveal the existence of a lateral radiation pressure inside the dielectric media, one that is exerted at and around the edges of a finite-diameter light beam. The lateral pressure turns out to be compressive for s-polarized light and expansive for p-polarized light. Along the way, we derive an expression for the momentum density of the light field inside dielectric media, one that has equal contributions from the traditional Minkowski and Abraham forms. This new expression for the momentum density, which contains both electromagnetic and mechanical terms, is used to explain the behavior of light pulses and individual photons upon entering and exiting a dielectric slab. In all the cases considered, the net forces and torques experienced by material bodies are consistent with the relevant conservation laws. Our method of calculating the radiation pressure can be used in conjunction with numerical simulations to yield the distribution of fields and forces in diverse systems of practical interest.
© 2004 Optical Society of America
OSA Recommended Articles
Equations on this page are rendered with MathJax. Learn more.