Spin and orbital angular momenta of light reflected from a cone

Masud Mansuripur, Armis R. Zakharian, Ewan M. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


We examine several retro-reflecting optical elements, each involving two reflections. In the case of a hollow metallic cone having an apex angle of 90°, a circularly polarized incident beam acquires, upon reflection, the opposite spin angular momentum. However, no angular momentum is transferred to the cone, because the reflected beam picks up an orbital angular momentum that is twice as large but opposite in direction to that of its spin. A 90°cone made of a transparent material in which the incident light suffers two total internal reflections before returning may be designed to endow the retro-reflected beam with different mixtures of orbital and spin angular momenta. Under no circumstances, however, is it possible to transfer angular momentum from the light beam to the cone without either allowing absorption or breaking the axial symmetry of the cone. A simple example of broken symmetry is provided by a wedge-shaped metallic reflector having an apex angle of 90°, which picks up angular momentum upon reflecting a circularly polarized incident beam.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number033813
JournalPhysical Review A - Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 12 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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