On the energy-momentum tensor of light in strong fields : an all optical view of the Abraham-Minkowski controversy

MacLeod, Alexander J. and Noble, Adam and Jaroszynski, Dino A.; Jaroszynski, Dino, ed. (2017) On the energy-momentum tensor of light in strong fields : an all optical view of the Abraham-Minkowski controversy. In: Relativistic Plasma Waves and Particle Beams as Coherent and Incoherent Radiation Sources II. Proceedings of SPIE . Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers, CZE. ISBN 9781510609693 (https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2269630)

[thumbnail of Macleod-etal-PSPIE-2017-On-the-energy-momentum-tensor-of-light-in-strong-fields]
Text. Filename: Macleod_etal_PSPIE_2017_On_the_energy_momentum_tensor_of_light_in_strong_fields.pdf
Accepted Author Manuscript

Download (200kB)| Preview


The Abraham-Minkowski controversy is the debate surrounding the "correct" form of the energy-momentum tensor of light in a medium. Over a century of theoretical and experimental studies have consistently produced conflicting results, with no consensus being found on how best to describe the influence of a material on the propagation of light. It has been argued that the total energy-momentum tensor for each of the theories, which includes both wave and material components, are equal. The difficulty in separating the full energy-momentum tensor is generally attributed to the fact that one cannot obtain the energy-momentum tensor of the medium for real materials. Non-linear electrodynamics provides an opportunity to approach the debate from an all optical set up, where the role of the medium is replaced by the vacuum under the influence of a strong background field. We derive, from first principles, the general form of the energy-momentum tensor in such theories, and use our results to shed some light on this long standing issue.


MacLeod, Alexander J., Noble, Adam ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8181-7076 and Jaroszynski, Dino A. ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3006-5492; Jaroszynski, Dino