Energy, momentum, and force in classical electrodynamics: Application to negative-index media

Masud Mansuripur, Armis R. Zakharian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The classical theory of electromagnetism is based on Maxwell's macroscopic equations, an energy postulate, a momentum postulate, and a generalized form of the Lorentz law of force. These seven postulates constitute the foundation of a complete and consistent theory, thus eliminating the need for physical models of polarization P and magnetization M - these being the distinguishing features of Maxwell's macroscopic equations. In the proposed formulation, P(r, t) and M(r, t) are arbitrary functions of space and time, their physical properties being embedded in the seven postulates of the theory. The postulates are self-consistent, comply with special relativity, and satisfy the laws of conservation of energy, linear momentum, and angular momentum. The Abraham momentum density pEM(r,t) = E(r,t) × H(r,t) / c2 emerges as the universal electromagnetic momentum that does not depend on whether the field is propagating or evanescent, and whether or not the host media are homogeneous, transparent, isotropic, linear, dispersive, magnetic, hysteretic, negative-index, etc. Any variation with time of the total electromagnetic momentum of a closed system results in a force exerted on the material media within the system in accordance with the generalized Lorentz law.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4594-4600
Number of pages7
JournalOptics Communications
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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