# 3. Maxwell's Equations and Light Waves

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1 3. Maxwell's Equations and Light Waves Vector fields, vector derivatives and the 3D Wave equation Derivation of the wave equation from Maxwell's Equations Why light waves are transverse waves Why is the B-field so much smaller than the E-field (and what that really means)

2 Vector fields Light is a pair of 3D vector fields. A 3D vector field f r assigns a vector (i.e., an arrow having both direction and length) to each point r xxˆ yyˆzzˆ in 3D space. Attempts to graphically represent vector fields in D and in 3D A light wave has both electric and magnetic 3D vector fields. In this illustration, the vectors of the two fields are only shown at a few selected locations, equally spaced along a line. But the fields are defined at every point (x,y,z).

3 The equations of optics are Maxwell s equations. (first written down in 1864) B E / E t E B0 BJ t James Clerk Maxwell ( ) E where is the electric field, B is the magnetic field, is the charge density, J is the current density, is the permittivity, and is the permeability of the medium. Often, in optics, there are no free charges or currents, so mostly we can assume that = 0 and J = 0.

4 Historical digression In Maxwell s original notation, the equations were not nearly so compact and easy to understand. But, he was able to derive a value for the speed of light in empty space, which was within 5% of the correct answer. The modern vector notation was introduced by Oliver Heaviside and Willard Gibbs in Heaviside is responsible for the currently accepted form of Maxwell s equations. original form of Maxwell s equations Oliver Heaviside ( ) J. Willard Gibbs ( )

5 Div, Grad, Curl, and all that Types of 3D derivatives: vector derivatives that appear in Maxwell s equations The Del operator:,, x y z The Gradient of a scalar function f : f f f f,, x y z The gradient points in the direction of steepest ascent. G The Divergence of a vector function : G G x y G G x y z z

6 Div, Grad, Curl, and more all that The Laplacian of a scalar function : f f f x y z f f,, f f f x y z The Laplacian of a vector function is the same, but for each component : G x Gx G Gy Gy G x y Gz Gz Gz G,, x y z x y z x y z The Laplacian is related to the curvature of a function.

7 Div, Grad, Curl, and still more all that The "Curl" of a vector function G : G G z y G G x G z y G G,, y dz z dx x dy The curl can computed from a matrix determinant : G xˆ yˆ zˆ det x y z Gx Gy Gz The curl measures the microscopic circulation of the vector field (which is not the same as the macroscopic circulation). See for more information. x

8 Generalizing from 1D to 3D: A vector wave equation for the electric field in one dimension: E x E t 0 in three dimensions: E t E 0 Note the vector symbol over the E. Expanding the Laplacian, we find: E E E E x y z t 0 This is really three independent wave equations, one each for the x-, y-, and z-components of E.

9 Derivation of the 3D Wave Equation from Maxwell s Equations B E 0 E t E B 0 B t First: take of this one: E B [ E] [ ] t B t Next: change the order of differentiation on the right-hand side: [ E] [ B] t

10 Derivation of the Wave Equation from Maxwell s Equations (cont d) But: E B t B Next: substituting for, we have: [ E] [ B] t Or: E [ E] t [ E] [ E ] t t assuming that and are both independent of time.

11 Derivation of the Wave Equation from Maxwell s Equations (cont d) E [ E] We are up to here: t Now, it can be shown that this: [ E ] is the same as this: ( E) E If we now assume zero charge density: = 0, then For any function at all, ( F) F F See: E 0 and we re left with the Wave Equation! E t E

12 There are really two Wave Equations, one for E and one for B We could also derive a wave equation for the magnetic field, using a very similar approach. The result is the same: B B 0 t E and B satisfy the same equation. But that doesn t mean they re equal. In fact, we will show that E and B are always perpendicular to each other.

13 An interesting aside We only used 3 out of the 4 Maxwell equations to derive the wave equation for E. B E / E we assumed = 0 t E B 0 B J t We never needed this one! we assumed J = 0 Some physicists believe that this 4 th equation may need to be modified one day, if anybody ever finds conclusive experimental evidence for the existence of magnetic charges. Doing so would be a very big deal, although it would not change the wave equation at all.

14 Waves in 3 dimensions We must now allow the complex field and its amplitude vectors. So our expression from Lecture : becomes: E r t E j k r t Notation: r xxˆ yyˆzzˆ, 0 exp A complex vector amplitude has six numbers that must be specified to completely determine it! to be E0 (Re{ Ex} jim{ Ex},Re{ Ey} jim{ Ey},Re{ Ez} jim{ Ez}) Note that the quantity E rt, variable: r and t. E E 0, exp E x t E0 j kx t is now a function of FOUR Note the arrows over the E s!

15 For a 3D wave, which way is it traveling? Well, for a wave in 1 dimension, it was easy to tell., exp E zt E0 j kz t This wave is traveling in the positive z direction. For a wave in 3 dimensions, we have a vector which specifies the variable: not just an x, y, or z, but an! So it isn t surprising that k becomes a vector too. And its direction is the direction along which the wave is traveling. dot product! E rt, E 0expjkr t E0exp jkx x ky y kz z t r k k Note: the length of still has the same meaning as it did in Lecture : c

16 A common mistake Question: write down an expression for the electric field component of an electromagnetic wave. Incorrect answer: Another incorrect answer: And another: E rt, E 0 exp jkrt E rt, E 0 exp jkrt E rt, E0 exp jkr t Remember: you cannot have a vector in the exponent! Correct answer:, E rt E 0 expjkrt this is not a vector

17 Longitudinal vs. Transverse waves Transverse: Motion is perpendicular to the direction of propagation Longitudinal: energy flow Motion is along the direction of propagation Space has 3 dimensions, of which directions are transverse to the propagation direction, so there are different kinds of transverse waves in addition to the longitudinal one. e.g., sound waves are longitudinal

18 Why light waves are transverse Suppose a wave propagates in the x-direction. Then it s a function of x and t (and not y or z), so all y- and z-derivatives are zero: Recall, in a charge-free medium, that is, We find: Ey E B z y Bz y z y z 0 E 0 B0 E E x y E B z B x y Bz 0 0 x y z x y z E x x Bx 0 and 0 x The component of the wave pointing parallel to the propagation direction does not vary along that direction. Only E y and E z can vary with x.

19 The magnetic-field direction in a light wave Suppose a wave propagates in the x-direction and has its electric field along the y-direction [so, by assumption, E x = E z = 0]. What is the direction of the magnetic field? Use: So: B E E z y E E x E z y E E,, t y z z x x y In other words: B E 0,0, y t x B z E y t x x Why is this term zero? Because we ve assumed propagation in the x direction. If the field was varying along the z direction, then it wouldn t be propagating solely along x. The only non-zero component of B is the z component.

20 The magnetic-field strength in a light wave Suppose a wave propagates in the x-direction and has its electric field in the y-direction. What is the strength of the magnetic field? Start with: We can integrate: So: B z E y t x and Take B z (x,0) = 0 t 0 Ey Bz( x, t) Bz( x,0) dt x jk Bz ( x, t) E0 exp j( kxt) j Ey rt E0 jkx t, exp Differentiating E y with respect to x yields a jk, and integrating with respect to t yields a 1/(-j. But / k = c: 1 Bz( x, t) Ey( x, t) c

21 An Electromagnetic Wave To summarize: the electric and magnetic fields are in phase. The electric field, the magnetic field, and the k-vector are all perpendicular: E B k And the magnitude of B 0 is smaller than the magnitude of E 0 by a factor of the wave velocity: B 0 E c 0

22 A note on units The units of electric field are volts per meter: E V m The strength of the magnetic field of an EM wave is related to the strength of the electric field by: B Therefore the units of B field must be: 0 It is not really accurate to say the B field is much smaller than the E field, since they have different units. But people often say it anyway. E c 0 B V s m This is called a Tesla. (not one of these)

23 Free-space impedance In optics, magnetic materials are not encountered too often. So people mostly use E and B, (rather than E and H) and B E c 0 0 At lower frequencies (i.e., rf and microwaves), electromagnetics engineers often use magnetic materials. It is often more convenient to use E and H, where H is defined by H B which implies E0 H0 c But, since, this means that E H c E0 0 In empty space: 377 H This quantity is known as the impedance of empty space. 0 0

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