Physics at Virginia

"Photon Wave Mechanics and Spin-Orbit Interaction in Single Photons"

Michael Raymer , University of Oregon
[Host: Olivier Pfister]
We often use the term “photon” in reference to individual quantum objects, or particles of light, rather than as excitations of the electromagnetic field. Yet, quantum mechanics textbooks contain no satisfactory wave equation for the photon wave function. I review the analog of the Dirac equation for a photon, which completely describes the evolution of the photon’s quantum wave function in coordinate space. Single photons carry orbital angular momentum as well as spin angular momentum. When a single photon travels in a multimode optical fiber, its spin and orbital angular momenta interact, modifying the shape of the photon wave function as it travels. Close analogy of this behavior can be found with that of an electron in a cylindrical potential, in spite of the fact that a photon has no magnetic moment. We are carrying out related experiments to illustrate the usefulness of the photon wave function concept.
Friday, September 5, 2008
4:00 PM
Physics Building, Room 204
Note special time.
Note special room.

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