Resolution of the Abraham-Minkowski dilemma

S.M. Barnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

276 Citations (Scopus)
372 Downloads (Pure)


The dilemma of identifying the correct form for the momentum of light in a medium has run for a century and has been informed by many distinguished contributions, both theoretical and experimental. We show that both the Abraham and Minkowski forms of the momentum density are correct, with the former being the kinetic momentum and the latter the canonical momentum. This identification allows us to explain why the experiments supporting each of the rival momenta gave the results that they did. The inclusion of dispersion and absorption provides an interesting subtlety, but does not change our conclusion.
Original languageEnglish
Article number070401
Number of pages4
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2010


  • Abraham-Minkowski Dilemma
  • light
  • momentum density
  • momentum


Dive into the research topics of 'Resolution of the Abraham-Minkowski dilemma'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this