Picture of a black hole

Strathclyde Open Access research that creates ripples...

The Strathprints institutional repository is a digital archive of University of Strathclyde's Open Access research outputs. Strathprints provides access to thousands of research papers by University of Strathclyde researchers, including by Strathclyde physicists involved in observing gravitational waves and black hole mergers as part of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) - but also other internationally significant research from the Department of Physics. Discover why Strathclyde's physics research is making ripples...

Strathprints also exposes world leading research from the Faculties of Science, Engineering, Humanities & Social Sciences, and from the Strathclyde Business School.

Discover more...

The enigma of optical momentum in a medium

Barnett, Stephen M. and Loudon, Rodney (2010) The enigma of optical momentum in a medium. Philosophical Transactions A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 368 (1914). pp. 927-939. ISSN 1364-503X

[img]
Preview
PDF
AbMinkPhil.pdf - Preprint

Download (170kB) | Preview

Abstract

It is 100 years since Minkowski and Abraham first gave rival expressions for the momentum of light in a material medium. At the single-photon level, these correspond, respectively, either to multiplying or dividing the free-space value () by the refractive index (n). The debate that this work started has continued till the present day, punctuated by the occasional publication of 'decisive' experimental demonstrations supporting one or other of these values. We review the compelling arguments made in support of the Minkowski and Abraham forms and are led to the conclusion that both momenta are correct. We explain why two distinct momenta are needed to describe light in a medium and why each appears as the natural, and experimentally observed, momentum in appropriate situations.