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Opt Express. 2010 Feb 1;18(3):2258-68. doi: 10.1364/OE.18.002258.

Division of the momentum of electromagnetic waves in linear media into electromagnetic and material parts.

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Departamento de FĂ­sica, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Caixa Postal 702, 30123-970, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil.


It is proposed a natural and consistent division of the momentum of electromagnetic waves in linear, non-dispersive and non-absorptive dielectric and magnetic media into material and electromagnetic parts. The material part is calculated using directly the Lorentz force law and the electromagnetic momentum density has the form epsilon(0)E x B, without an explicit dependence on the properties of the media. The consistency of the treatment is verified through the obtention of a correct momentum balance equation in many examples and showing the compatibility of the division with the Einstein's theory of relativity by the use of a gedanken experiment. An experimental prediction for the radiation pressure on mirrors immersed in linear dielectric and magnetic media is also made.


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