Sinusoidal plane-wave solutions of the electromagnetic wave equation
Sinusoidal plane-wave solutions are particular solutions to the
electromagnetic wave equation.
The general solution of the electromagnetic
wave equationin homogeneous, linear, time-independent media can be written as a linear superposition of plane-waves of different frequencies and polarizations.
The treatment in this article is classical but, because of the generality of
Maxwell's equationsfor electrodynamics, the treatment can be converted into the quantum mechanical treatment with only a reinterpretation of classical quantities (aside from the quantum mechanical treatment needed for charge and current densities).
The reinterpretation is based on the experiments of
Max Planckand the interpretations of those experiments by Albert Einstein. The quantum generalization of the classical treatment can be found in the articles on Photon polarizationand Photon dynamics in the double-slit experiment.
Experimentally, every light signal can be decomposed into a spectrum of frequencies and wavelengths associated with sinusoidal solutions of the wave equation. Polarizing filters can be used to decompose light into its various polarization components. The polarization components can be linear, circular or elliptical.
for the electric field and
for the magnetic field, where k is the
angular frequencyof the wave, and is the speed of light. The hats on the vectors indicate unit vectorsin the x, y, and z directions.
The plane wave is parameterized by the
Polarization state vector
All the polarization information can be reduced to a single vector, called the
Jones vector, in the x-y plane. This vector, while arising from a purely classical treatment of polarization, can be interpreted as a quantum statevector. The connection with quantum mechanics is made in the article on photon polarization.
The vector emerges from the plane-wave solution. The electric field solution can be re-written in complex notation as
is the Jones vector in the x-y plane. The notation for this vector is the
bra-ket notationof Dirac, which is normally used in a quantum context. The quantum notation is used here in anticipation of the interpretation of the Jones vector as a quantum state vector.
Dual Jones vector
The Jones vector has a dual given by
Normalization of the Jones vector
The Jones vector is normalized. The
inner productof the vector with itself is
In general, the wave is linearly polarized when the phase angles are equal,
This represents a wave polarized at an angle with respect to the x axis. In that case the Jones vector can be written
If is rotated by radians with respect to the wave is circularly polarized. The Jones vector is
where the plus sign indicates right circular polarization and the minus sign indicates left circular polarization. In the case of circular polarization, the electric field vector of constant magnitude rotates in the x-y plane.
If unit vectors are defined such that
then a circular polarization state can written in the "R-L basis" as
Any arbitrary state can be written in the R-L basis
The general case in which the electric field rotates in the x-y plane and has variable magnitude is called
elliptical polarization. The state vector is given by
*cite book |author=Jackson, John D.|title=Classical Electrodynamics (3rd ed.)|publisher=Wiley|year=1998|id=ISBN 0-471-30932-X
Theoretical and experimental justification for the Schrödinger equation
Electromagnetic wave equation
Mathematical descriptions of the electromagnetic field
* [http://www.hydrogenlab.de/elektronium/HTML/einleitung_hauptseite_uk.html Polarisation from an atomic transition: linear and curcular]
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