The torque exerted by radiation on small particles is recognized to have a considerable relevance, e.g., on the dynamics of cosmic dust grains and for the manipulation of micro and nanoparticles under controlled conditions. In the present paper we derive, in the transition matrix formalism, the radiation torque applied by a plane polarized wave on nonspherical particles. In case of circularly polarized waves impinging on spherical particles our equations reproduce the findings of Marston and Crichton [Phys. Rev. A30, 2508–2516 (1984)]. Our equations were applied to calculate the torque on a few model particles shaped as aggregates of identical spheres, both axially symmetric and lacking any symmetry, and the conditions for the stability of the induced rotational motion are discussed.
© 2006 Optical Society of America
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