Radiation pressure and momentum transfer in dielectrics: The photon drag effect

R Loudon, S M Barnett, C Baxter

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91 Citations (Scopus)


The momentum transfer from light to a dielectric material in the photon drag effect is calculated by evaluation of the relevant Lorentz force. In accordance with measurements on Si and Ge, the material is taken as a two-component optical system, with charge carriers described by an extinction coefficient kappa in a host semiconductor described by real refractive indices eta(p) (phase) and eta(g) (group). The calculated momentum transfer to the charge carriers alone has the value eta(p)h omega/c per photon, the so-called Minkowski value, found experimentally. The time-dependent Lorentz force is calculated for light in the form of a narrow-band single-photon pulse. When the pulse is much shorter than the attenuation length, which is much shorter than the sample thickness, there is a clear separation in time between surface and bulk contributions to the forces. The total bulk momentum transfer (charges plus host) in this case is found to be h omega/eta(g)c, the so-called Abraham value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages11
JournalPhysical Review A
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005


  • electromagnetic field
  • refracting medium
  • wave momentum
  • light
  • germanium
  • energy
  • tensor
  • matter


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