Part 13: Electromagnetic FIelds and Angular Momentum

Last week, we considered momentum conservation in electromagnetism, finding that the momentum density is equal to , where is the Poynting vector; and that the momentum flux density tensor is , where is the Maxwell stress tensor, a symmetric rank-two tensor with components . Today, we consider angular momentum.

Recalling that for a particle of momentum **p** at displacement **x** from the origin, the angular momentum about the origin is

, and the force on a particle of charge *q* is , so the torque about the origin on the particle is

.

Converting to charge and current densities, if is the total (mechanical) angular momentum of the charges in a volume *V*, then

.

However, we showed last week that

,

where is the divergence of the Maxwell stress tensor , which is a vector with *i*th component .

Thus, we plug this in to get:

.

Note that since , ,

and the order can be interchanged between time derivatives and volume integrals, so the above becomes:

,

and so we see is the angular momentum of the fields in the volume, and so is the angular momentum density of the electromagnetic fields.

Now, let us consider the flux term. The *i*th component of the cross product of vectors **a** and **b** is , where is the Levi-Civita symbol. Thus, the *i*th component of is

.

Now, using the product rule, , and , so

,

and so

,

since due to the symmetry of and the antisymmetry of the Levi-Civita symbol (exchange the labels on the dummy indices *j* and *k*, then reverse orders on , with no sign change, and on , with sign change, to find that the sum is its own opposite, and therefore zero).

Note that the cross product of vectors **a** and **b** is the vector with *i*th component . Similarly, the cross product of the vector **a** with the *tensor* is the tensor with components

.

In this vein, we see then that , and therefore, that

,

the *i*th component of the divergence of the tensor (or, more accurately, pseudotensor) . Thus, since the corresponding components are equal,

,

and so

,

giving us our integral continuity equation. Just as is the *linear* momentum flux density tensor of electromagnetic fields, so we see that is the *angular* momentum flux density tensor of electromagnetic fields. Thus, the differential form for our continuity equation is

.

And just as one may find the total force the fields exert on the charges in a volume by integrating the total force via , one can do the same with to find the total torque.

Tags: Angular Momentum, Continuity Equation, Electricity & Magnetism, Friday Physics, Maxwell Stress Tensor, physics, Tensor, Torque

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