On the six components of optical angular momentum

Stephen M. Barnett

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21 Citations (Scopus)
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In special relativity the angular momentum is a rank-two antisymmetric tensor with six independent components. Three of these are the familiar generators of spatial rotation, which for light have been studied at length. The remaining three, which are responsible for the Lorentz boosts, have largely been neglected. We introduce the latter and compare their properties with those of the more familiar generators of rotations. The seemingly natural separation of the generators of Lorentz boosts into spin and orbital parts fails, however, as the spin part is identically zero.

Original languageEnglish
Article number064010
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Optics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


  • optical angular momentum
  • Lorentz boosts
  • light
  • spin
  • entanglement
  • photons
  • fields
  • states
  • beam


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