Radiation pressure on submerged mirrors: Implications for the momentum of light in dielectric media

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Radiation pressure measurements on mirrors submerged in dielectric liquids have consistently shown an effective Minkowski momentum for the photons within the liquid. Using an exact theoretical calculation based on Maxwell's equations and the Lorentz law of force, we demonstrate that this result is a consequence of the fact that conventional mirrors impart, upon reflection, a 180° phase shift to the incident beam of light. If the mirror is designed to impart a different phase, then the effective momentum will turn out to be anywhere between the two extremes of the Minkowski and Abraham momenta. Since all values in the range between these two extremes are equally likely to be found in experiments, we argue that the photon momentum inside a dielectric host has the arithmetic mean value of the Abraham and Minkowski momenta.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2677-2682
Number of pages6
JournalOptics Express
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 5 2007


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics

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