Introduction to Mathematical Physics/Electromagnetism/Electromagnetic field

Equations for the fields: Maxwell equations edit

Electromagnetic interaction is described by the means of Electromagnetic fields:   field called electric field,   field called magnetic field,   field and   field. Those fields are solution of Maxwell equations, \index{Maxwell equations}


where   is the charge density and   is the current density. This system of equations has to be completed by additional relations called constitutive relations that bind   to   and   to  . In vacuum, those relations are:


In continuous material media, energetic hypotheses should be done (see chapter parenergint) .


In harmonical regime\footnote{ That means that fields satisfy following relations:


} and when there are no sources and when constitutive relations are:

  • for   field
    where   represents temporal convolution\index{convolution} (value of   field at time   depends on values of   at preceding times) and:
  • for   field:

Maxwell equations imply Helmholtz equation:


Proof of this is the subject of exercise exoeqhelmoltz.


Equations of optics are a limit case of Maxwell equations. Ikonal equation:


where   is the optical path and   the optical index is obtained from the Helmholtz equation using WKB method (see section secWKB). Fermat principle can be deduced from ikonal equation {\it via} equation of light ray (see section secFermat). Diffraction's Huyghens principle can be deduced from Helmholtz equation by using integral methods (see section secHuyghens).

Conservation of charge edit

Local equation traducing conservation of electrical charge is:




Modelization of charge edit

Charge density in Maxwell-Gauss equation in vacuum


has to be taken in the sense of distributions, that is to say that   and   are distributions. In particular   can be Dirac distribution, and   can be discontinuous (see the appendix chapdistr about distributions). By definition:

  • a point charge   located at   is modelized by the distribution   where   is the Dirac distribution.
  • a dipole\index{dipole} of dipolar momentum   is modelized by distribution  .
  • a quadripole of quadripolar tensor\index{tensor}   is modelized by distribution  .
  • in the same way, momenta of higher order can be defined.

Current density   is also modelized by distributions:

  • the monopole doesn't exist! There is no equivalent of the point charge.
  • the magnetic dipole is  


Electrostatic potential edit

Electrostatic potential is solution of Maxwell-Gauss equation:


This equations can be solved by integral methods exposed at section chapmethint: once the Green solution of the problem is found (or the elementary solution for a translation invariant problem), solution for any other source can be written as a simple integral (or as a simple convolution for translation invariant problem). Electrical potential   created by a unity point charge in infinite space is the elementary solution of Maxwell-Gauss equation:


Let us give an example of application of integral method of section chapmethint:


Potential created by an electric dipole, in infinite space:


As potential is zero at infinity, using Green's formula:


From properties of   distribution, it yields:




Covariant form of Maxwell equations edit

At previous chapter, we have seen that light speed   invariance is the basis of special relativity. Maxwell equations should have a obviously invariant form. Let us introduce this form.

Current density four-vector edit

Charge conservation equation (continuity equation) is:


Let us introduce the current density four-vector:


Continuity equation can now be written as:


which is covariant.

Potential four-vector edit

Lorentz gauge condition:\index{Lorentz gauge}


suggests that potential four-vector is:


Maxwell potential equations can thus written in the following covariant form:


Electromagnetic field tensor edit

Special relativity provides the most elegant formalism to present electromagnetism: Maxwell potential equations can be written in a compact covariant form, but also, this is the object of this section, it gives new insights about nature of electromagnetic field. Let us show that   field and   field are only two aspects of a same physical being, the electromagnetic field tensor. For that, consider the equations expressing the potentials form the fields:




Let us introduce the anti-symetrical tensor \index{tensor (electromagnetic field)} of second order   defined by:




Maxwell equations can be written as:


This equation is obviously covariant.   and   field are just components of a same physical being[1]



  1. The electromagnetic interaction is an example of unification of interactions: before Maxwell's equations, electric and magnetic interactions were distinguished. Now, only one interaction, the electromagnetic interaction, needs to be considered. A unified theory unifies weak and electromagnetic interaction: the electroweak interaction ([#References|references]). The strong interaction (and the quantum chromodynamics) can be joined to the electroweak interaction {\it via} the standard model. One expects to describe one day all the interactions (the gravitational interaction included) in the frame of the great unification \index{unification}. }: the electromagnetic tensor. Expressing fields in various frames is now obvious using Lorentz transformation. For instance, it is clear why a point charge that has a uniform translation movement in a reference frame   produces in this same reference frame a   field.