Thermodynamics of radiation pressure and photon momentum

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations


Theoretical analyses of radiation pressure and photon momentum in the past 150 years have focused almost exclusively on classical and/or quantum theories of electrodynamics. In these analyses, Maxwell's equations, the properties of polarizable and/or magnetizable material media, and the stress tensors of Maxwell, Abraham, Minkowski, Chu, and Einstein-Laub have typically played prominent roles [1-9]. Each stress tensor has subsequently been manipulated to yield its own expressions for the electromagnetic (EM) force, torque, energy, and linear as well as angular momentum densities of the EM field. This paper presents an alternative view of radiation pressure from the perspective of thermal physics, invoking the properties of blackbody radiation in conjunction with empty as well as gas-filled cavities that contain EM energy in thermal equilibrium with the container's walls. In this type of analysis, Planck's quantum hypothesis, the spectral distribution of the trapped radiation, the entropy of the photon gas, and Einstein's and coefficients play central roles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOptical Trapping and Optical Micromanipulation XIV
EditorsGabriel C. Spalding, Kishan Dholakia
ISBN (Electronic)9781510611511
StatePublished - 2017
EventOptical Trapping and Optical Micromanipulation XIV 2017 - San Diego, United States
Duration: Aug 6 2017Aug 10 2017

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


OtherOptical Trapping and Optical Micromanipulation XIV 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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