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Appl Opt. 2010 Mar 10;49(8):1267-79. doi: 10.1364/AO.49.001267.

Validity criteria of the discrete dipole approximation.

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  • 1Graduate School of Science, Tohoku University, Aoba, Aramakiaza, Aoba-ku, Sendai 980-8578, Japan.


There are two widely accepted restrictions on the application of the discrete dipole approximation (DDA) in the study of light scattering by particles comparable to the wavelength: (1) when considering dielectric particles, the size of the cells must satisfy the condition kd|m|<0.5, where k is the wavenumber, d is the size of the cells, and m is the complex refractive index of the constituent material and (2) when considering conductive particles, the size of the cells must be small enough to reproduce sufficiently the evolution of the electromagnetic field in the skin layer. We examine both restrictions when the DDA is applied to irregularly shaped particles and show that its restrictions are not as strong as is widely accepted. For instance, when studying irregularly shaped particles averaged over orientations, even at kd|m|=1, the DDA provides highly accurate numerical results. Moreover, we show that the impact of using large constituent cells is similar to that produced by surface roughness; therefore, the replacement of the target particle by an array of large constituent cells has the same effect, qualitatively, as incorporating additional small-scale surface roughness on the particle. Such a modification of the target particle can be desirable in many practical applications of DDA when irregularly shaped particles are considered. When applying DDA to conductive, nonspherical particles, the insufficient description of the electromagnetic field in the skin layer does not lead to a violation of the Maxwell equations, although it has a visible but nonmajor influence on the light-scattering properties of the target.

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