Picture of two heads

Open Access research that challenges the mind...

The Strathprints institutional repository is a digital archive of University of Strathclyde research outputs. Strathprints provides access to thousands of Open Access research papers by University of Strathclyde researchers, including those from the School of Psychological Sciences & Health - but also papers by researchers based within the Faculties of Science, Engineering, Humanities & Social Sciences, and from the Strathclyde Business School.

Discover more...

Resolution of the Abraham-Minkowski dilemma

Barnett, S.M. (2010) Resolution of the Abraham-Minkowski dilemma. Physical Review Letters, 104 (7). ISSN 0031-9007

AbMinPRL.pdf - Final Published Version

Download (109kB) | Preview


The dilemma of identifying the correct form for the momentum of light in a medium has run for a century and has been informed by many distinguished contributions, both theoretical and experimental. We show that both the Abraham and Minkowski forms of the momentum density are correct, with the former being the kinetic momentum and the latter the canonical momentum. This identification allows us to explain why the experiments supporting each of the rival momenta gave the results that they did. The inclusion of dispersion and absorption provides an interesting subtlety, but does not change our conclusion.