Theory of the radiation pressure on dielectric slabs, prisms and single surfaces

Rodney Loudon, Stephen M. Barnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Two alternative formulations of the Lorentz force theory of radiation pressure on macroscopic bodies are reviewed. The theories treat the medium respectively as formed from individual dipoles and from individual charges. The former theory is applied to the systems of dielectric slab and dielectric prism, where it is shown that the total torque and force respectively agree with the results of the latter theory. The longitudinal shift of the slab caused by the passage of a single- photon pulse is calculated by Einstein box and Lorentz force theories, with identical results. The Lorentz forces on a single dielectric surface are shown to differ in the two theories and the basic reasons for the discrepancy are discussed. Both top- hat and Gaussian transverse beam profiles are considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11855-11869
Number of pages15
JournalOptics Express
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2006


  • angular momentum
  • polarized light
  • laser beams


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