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Lect. Notes 8

LECTURE NOTES 8

A More Sophisticated Treatment of EM Wave Propagation in Conducting Media

In the previous P436 Lecture Notes 7, we discussed the propagation of EM waves in

conducting media (e.g. metals), taking into account Ohms Law J ( r , t ) = C E ( r , t ) and the

continuity equation i J ( r , t ) = free ( r , t ) t in the conductor.

However, this treatment of conducting media neglected certain inertial effects associated with

the free / conduction electrons in the metal conductor we need to consider more carefully the

actual motion of the free / conduction electrons in the conductor, and their response e.g. to the

application of a monochromatic plane EM wave of angular frequency .

Since the free / conduction electrons in a metal are not bound to individual atoms in a

conductor, there are no elastic restoring forces acting on the free / conduction electrons

{i.e. ke = 0 }, as there was in the case of the polarization of bound atomic electrons, e.g. in a

dispersive, linear non-conducting medium. Thus, the differential equation describing the motion

of the free / conduction electrons in a metal is of the general form:

Fe ( r , t ) = me a ( r , t ) = me

dv ( r , t )

+ me v ( r , t ) + 0 r ( t ) = eE ( r , t )

dt

where the driving force eE ( r , t ) = the charge of the electron ( e ) times the electric field

E ( r , t ) of the monochromatic plane EM wave propagating in the conducting metal.

Thus, we obtain a first-order inhomogeneous differential equation of the form:

me

dv ( r , t )

+ me v ( r , t ) = eE ( r , t )

dt

n.b. here again, we neglect the effects of the magnetic Lorentz force term,

FLorentz ( r , t ) = ev ( r , t ) B ( r , t )

eE ( r , t ) because: v = v vD

v prop .

Note also that me = mass of the free /conduction electron in the metal conductor which,

depending on the microscopic/quantum mechanical details of the conductor is {often} not equal

to the mass of a {truly free, isolated} electron, me = 9.11031 kg .

The quantity me is known as the frictional / Joule dissipation constant, associated with

electron energy / momentum losses i.e. free /conduction electron scattering losses in the

conductor. The damping constant {n.b. units of angular frequency (radians/sec)} is associated

with dissipative/ energy loss mechanism(s) of the motion of free / conduction electrons in the

metal free / conduction electrons scattering off of each other, off of atoms, lattice vibrations,

crystal defects and impurities in real metals. Thus, we can also define a relaxation time constant

rlx 1 associated with the free / conduction electrons present in the metal conductor.

Professor Steven Errede, Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

Lect. Notes 8

The free current density in the metal conductor is J free ( r , t ) = ne ev ( r , t ) {Amps/m2}, where:

ne = free / conduction electron number density in the metal conductor {#/unit volume = #/m3}.

q = e = the electric charge of free / conduction electrons {Coulombs}.

v ( r , t ) = the {drift} velocity ( c ) of free / conduction electrons in metal at ( r , t ) {m/s}.

me

Thus:

dv ( r , t )

+ me v ( r , t ) = eE ( r , t ) multiply through by ne e :

dt

dv ( r , t )

ne eme v ( r , t ) = + ne e 2 E ( r , t )

dt

dv ( r , t )

2

= me ne e

me ( ne ev ( r , t ) ) = + ne e E ( r , t )

dt

ne eme

= me ( ne ev ( r , t ) ) + me ( ne ev ( r , t ) ) = + ne e 2 E ( r , t )

dt

me

dJ free ( r , t )

dt

+ me J free ( r , t ) = ne e 2 E ( r , t ) or:

dJ free ( r , t )

dt

n e2

+ J free ( r , t ) = e E ( r , t )

me

Recall that the solution to an inhomogeneous differential equation is the sum of the solution

to the corresponding homogeneous differential equation, plus a particular solution satisfying the

inhomogeneous differential equation. Thus, we first need to obtain the solution to the

homogeneous differential equation, i.e. when no EM waves are present in the conducting

material, vis. E ( r , t ) = 0 .

a.) If E ( r , t ) = 0 , the general solution to the first-order linear, homogeneous differential

equation:

dJ free ( r , t )

dt

+ J free ( r , t ) = 0

J free ( r , t ) = J o free ( r ) e t = J o ( r ) e t rlx

where: rlx 1

in a characteristic relaxation time t = rlx 1 .

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

Lect. Notes 8

electric charge} in the above homogeneous equation, with E ( r , t ) = 0 :

n e2

d

i J free ( r , t ) + i J free ( r , t ) = e i E ( r , t )

dt

me

=0

thus:

2 free ( r , t )

t 2

2 free ( r , t )

t

free ( r , t )

t

free ( r , t )

t

=0

=0

free ( r , t )

t

+ free ( r , t ) = 0

But from P436 Lecture Notes 7, p. 1 we also obtained the relation free ( r , t ) = o free ( r ) e C t .

Thus comparing these two equations, we see that: = C = 1 rlx .

b.) For a static non-zero electric field E ( r ) = Eo , then this static problem can have no explicit

time dependence, hence dJ free ( r , t ) dt = 0 and thus the first-order linear, inhomogeneous

equation becomes:

ne e 2

ne e 2

ne e 2

ne e 2

E

r

E

J

r

E

r

constant

=

=

=

=

or:

(

)

(

)

(

)

o

Eo = constant

free

me

me

me

me

J free ( r ) =

free ( r )

t

with static solution(s): J free ( r ) = constant = fcn ( r ,{or t}) and free ( r ) fcn ( t ) .

=0

However, Ohms Law (for DC / steady free electric currents) is: J free ( r ) = C E ( r ) where:

n e2

n e2

Thus, we see here that: J free ( r ) = e E ( r ) = C E ( r ) i.e. the static conductivity C = e

me

me

1 me

=

or equivalently, the static resistivity: C

. {n.b. both purely real quantities}

C ne e 2

m

= e 2

(Ohms)

A ne e A

Professor Steven Errede, Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

Lect. Notes 8

c.) For a harmonically time-dependent {in general, complex} electric field (e.g. associated with

a monochromatic plane EM wave (or an AC current, using Ohms law), with angular frequency

= 2 f > 0 :

E ( r , t ) = Eo ( r ) e

it

and:

dJ free ( r , t )

dt

ne e 2

+ J free ( r , t ) = E ( r , t )

me

We assume that the {in general, complex} free current density solution to this linear

inhomogeneous first-order differential equation is of the general form: J free ( r , t ) = J o free ( r ) e it .

Then the solution to this linear, inhomogeneous first-order differential equation is:

ne e 2

ne e 2

ne e 2

,

=

=

=

E

r

t

E

r

t

E

r

t

since:

(

)

(

)

(

)

C

C

me

me

me

( i + ) J free ( r , t ) =

C

C

C

J free ( r , t ) =

E ( r , t ) =

E ( r , t ) =

E ( r , t ) C ( ) E ( r , t )

i

i

1

i

/

(

)

(

)

(

)

where:

2

( ne e me )

C

the AC conductivity: C ( )

=

i

i

(

)

(

)

m

1

= C (1 i / ) = e 2 (1 i / ) complex quantity

and the AC resistivity: C ( )

C ( )

ne e

Thus, we see that the {complex} AC resistance (aka impedance, Z) e.g. of a long wire is:

Z ( ) RAC ( ) =

C ( )

A

= C (1 i / ) = e 2

(1 i / ) n.b. complex quantity

A

ne e A

free ( r , t )

t

with: i E ( r , t ) =

free ( r , t ) Gauss

Law

( ne e 2 me )

C

E (r,t )

J free ( r , t ) = C ( ) E ( r , t ) =

E ( r , t ) =

(1 i / )

(1 i / )

But:

( ne e 2 me )

C

i E ( r , t )

Thus: i J free ( r , t ) = C ( ) i E ( r , t ) =

i E ( r , t ) =

1

/

1

/

i

(

)

(

)

free ( r , t )

free ( r , t )

free ( r , t )

C

C

=

=

free ( r , t )

or:

1

i

t

1

(

)

(

)

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

Lect. Notes 8

The solution to the above differential equation for the electric charge volume density is of the

form: free ( r , t ) = o ( r ) e it provided that:

free ( r , t )

t

C

C

free ( r , t ) i =

n.b. implies ( ) {complex!}

(1 i / )

(1 i / )

( ne e me )

C

C

1

i.e. that: ( ) =

but: C ( )

=

i (1 i / )

(1 i / ) (1 i / )

( ) =

C ( ) 1

C

=

i

i (1 i / )

permittivity () and complex AC

conductivity C() in a metal / conductor.

empty

space

C ( )

i

metal

because the vacuum pervades all space however, the conducting medium and the vacuum

coexist in the same region of space-time, invoking the superposition principle , the two electric

permittivities (n.b. both scalar quantities) are additive.

However, it can be seen that because the {DC} conductivity of metals is so high

{typically C ~ 107 Siemens/m }, that even for {angular} frequencies in the optical region

{ ~ 1016 radians/sec } the electric permittivity of free space, o is dwarfed by the second term,

i.e. o = 8.85 1012

C ( ) i = C i (1 i / )

include it here. Thus, we see that even for metal conductors:

( )

( ) o

= 1+ C

= 1 + e ( ) .

i

o

For pure copper metal at low frequencies, i.e. 0 , the static conductivity is CCu 6 107

Siemens/m; the number density of free electrons in pure copper metal is neCu

using C = ( ne e2 me ) Cu = ( neCu e2 me CCu )

(n

Cu 2

e

Cu

rlx

1 Cu 2.5 1014 sec .

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

Lect. Notes 8

E ( r , t ) = Eo ( r ) e it Eo ( r ) static / constant

J = CE

J ( r , t ) = J o ( r ) e it J o ( r ) static / constant

i J =

( r , t ) = o ( r ) e it o ( r ) static / constant

C

C = 1

C

i

1

/

(

)

C ( ) =

C ( ) =

C ( )

( ) = o +

ne e 2

me

static / constant C =

= C (1 i / ) C static / constant

C ( )

C

C

= o +

= o +

singular !!!

( / + i )

i

i (1 i / )

In the previous P436 Lecture Notes 7.5 on dispersion in non-conducting, non-magnetic linear

/ homogeneous / isotropic media, we showed / derived the complex electric permittivity (due to

bound atomic electrons) of the dielectric medium to be:

n e2 n

f josc

( )

e

=

= 1 + e ( )

( ) = o (1 + e ( ) ) = o 1 +

with:

(

)

e

o me j =1 12j 2 i j

o

and: n ( ) = ( ) o = K e ( ) = 1 + e ( ) .

If only one / a single resonance exists, then this relation reduces to:

ne e 2

1

2

2

i

o e 1

1 ( ) = o 1 +

with:

ne e2

3 o me

1 j 02

j

ne e2

1

2

2

me 1 i

1 ( ) = o +

0

j

kej

me

Comparing this expression to that for conducting media with free / conduction electrons:

n e2

C

free ( ) = o +

with static conductivity: C e

( / + i )

me

ne e2 1

ne e2

1

1

=

+

2

o

me [ / + i ]

me + i

free ( ) = o +

or:

free ( ) = o

ne e2

1

with 0 0 i.e. a resonance at zero frequency!

2

2

me 0 i

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

Lect. Notes 8

Note that the sign in the above formula {relative to that for bound atomic electrons} arises because

of fact that free / conduction electrons in metal are not bound (i.e. phase shift of 180o @ f = 0 Hz).

Then for dispersive conducting media containing free electrons, Maxwells equations become:

J free = C E =

1) i D = free i E = free

5) Ohms Law:

2) i B = 0

6) Continuity Equation:

3) E =

i J free =

C

1 i

free

t

B

t

D

E

= o J free + o

4) B = o J free + o

t

t

medium is non-magnetic

( o )

Again, we use the curl operator on equations 3) and 4) to obtain wave equation(s) for EM waves

propagating in a dispersive metal / conductor, e.g. for equation 3):

E =

i E

2 E

B = o free o 2

t

t

t

2

2 E = E E

o C

o

t

t 2

and:

n2 1

=

c2 v2

conductors

( o )

C

1 2 E

E

E

= o C

= o

2

2

t

v t

(1 i ) t

Using equation 4) above, an identical wave equation is obtained for the magnetic field B ( r , t ) :

2 B

C

1 2B

B

B

= o C

= o

2

2

t

v t

(1 i ) t

Monochromatic plane wave solutions to above wave equation(s) for EM waves propagating in

dispersive conducting media with free electrons will (again) be of the form

i ( kz t )

e.g. E ( r , t ) = Eo e

for monochromatic plane EM waves propagating in the + z direction,

again with B ( r , t ) =

k

i ( kz t )

.

k E ( r , t ) = Bo e

k ( ) k ( ) + i ( ) with k ( ) = e k ( ) = 2 ( ) and ( ) = m k ( ) {related to

Professor Steven Errede, Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

Lect. Notes 8

c

k ( ) = n ( ) or: n ( ) = k ( ) where the complex index of refraction:

c

c

c

n ( ) n ( ) + i ( ) thus: n ( ) = e ( n ( ) ) = k ( ) and: ( ) = m ( n ( ) ) = ( ) .

i ( kz t )

Plugging in the expression E ( r , t ) = Eo e

for monochromatic plane EM waves propagating

in a dispersive, non-magnetic conducting medium into the above wave equation, we obtain the

so-called characteristic equation for this situation {Exercise - explicitly work this out yourselves!}:

2

n e2

n e2

io C

1

k ( ) = +

with: c 2 =

and: C = e or: = e

o o

c (1 i )

me

me C

2

i C o

c

Then: n 2 ( ) = k 2 ( ) = (Complex Index of Refraction)2 n 2 ( ) = 1 +

(1 i )

n e2

1 where: = e

me C

and:

( C o ) .

by the free / conduction electrons in the dispersive, non-magnetic conducting medium coll is

short compared to the oscillation period of EM waves, = 1 f = 2 , i.e. coll

io C

io C

= io C

For 0 (but not 0 !): k ( ) = +

k 2 ( )

1

c (1 i )

keeping only

terms linear in

1+ i

i = 1 =

{Please work this out/derive this yourselves!}

2

1) : k 2 ( ) io C k ( ) = k ( ) + i ( ) io C =

o C

2

(1 + i )

From which we see immediately that for monochromatic plane EM waves propagating in a

dispersive, non-magnetic conducting medium, that k ( ) ( ) =

o C

2

{again} we see that the B -field lags the E -field by: k = B E = tan 1 tan 1 (1) = = 45o .

4

k

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

Lect. Notes 8

c

1) since: n ( ) = k 2 ( )

2

2

i

1

c 2

c

2

= + C . Using:

n

k

i

Then: ( )

( )

o C

= i o C

2

o

o o

n ( ) = n ( ) + i ( ) =

i C

1+ i

i =

C

C

.

(1 + i ) which again implies that n ( ) ( ) =

2 o

2 o

( )

o C

same as before,

but with o

which is the characteristic distance scale that the E and B fields fall to 1 e = e 1 = 0.3679 of

their original {z = 0} values.

( ) 2 ( ) = 2 sc ( )

2 o C

C

2 o

The characteristic distance scales over which the {time-averaged} EM wave energy density

u ( z ) and intensity I ( z ) fall to 1 e = e 1 = 0.3679 of their initial (z = 0) values, respectively are:

uEM ( z ) = uEM ( 0 ) e

I ( z ) = I ( 0) e

and

z

c

CCu o

6.5 1018 / sec , then for low frequencies, e.g. f = 2 1012 Hz we see that pure

copper metal is in the low-frequency regime for vacuum wavelengths of:

c 3 108

o =

f

1012

2

= 2

3 10 m = 300 m cf w/ Cu ( f ) =

k( f )

4

o ( 2 f ) CCu

2

106 m = 1 m

In pure copper metal, the skin depth sc ( ) associated with monochromatic EM waves of

frequency f ~ 1012 Hz = 1 THz = 106 MHz is:

o C

2

4 10 2 1012 6 107

7

6.5 108 m = 65 nm

{ (10

12

sc

} { (10

Hz ) = 65 nm

12

Cu

Hz ) = 1 m

{o = 300 m}

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

Lect. Notes 8

In pure copper metal, the skin depth sc ( ) associated with monochromatic EM waves of

frequency f ~ 1010 Hz = 10 GHz = 104 MHz (e.g. cell phones) {which corresponds to a vacuum

wavelength of o = c f = 3 108 1010 = 3 102 m 3 cm } is:

sccu (1010 Hz )

( )

o C

2

4 10 2 1010 6 107

7

The wavelength of EM waves with frequency f = 1010 Hz propagating in the pure copper metal is:

Cu ( f ) =

2

= 2

k( f )

o ( 2 f ) CCu

2

= 105 m = 10 m

{ (10

10

sc

} { (10

Hz ) = 650 nm

10

Cu

Hz ) = 10 m

{o = 3.0 cm}

ne e 2

1 where: =

me C

and:

( C o ) .

i C o

(1 i )

At high frequencies, the free / conduction electrons in a metal will undergo a great many

oscillations before scattering i.e. the period of oscillations = 1 f = 2 is short compared to

the mean time between scatterings, essentially the relaxation time, relax = 1 .

In the high-frequency regime, the volume charge densities of free electrons and positive

ions in metal together can be thought of as a plasma whose charge density oscillates

longitudinally { i.e. in the direction of propagation of the EM wave) at the {natural} angular

frequency of known as the plasma frequency, defined as:

The plasma frequency in a metal/conductor: P

For pure copper: PCu = 1.644 1016 rad / sec

ne e 2

2

o me

f PCu =

PCu

2.616 1015 Hz

2

c

f

Cu

P

Operative in the optical UV portion of the EM spectrum typical for many metals !!!

10

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

Lect. Notes 8

We can rewrite the (complex index of refraction)2 in terms of the plasma frequency :

n 2 ( ) = 1 +

used:

i ( C o )

n e2

ne e 2

1

1

1

= 1+ i e

=

(1 i )

o me (1 i )

o me i (1 i ) i 1

i = 1 i

= P2

Thus: n 2 ( ) = 1

P2

+ i )

where: P

ne e 2

ne e 2

and:

o me

me C

o ne e 2

P2

=

=

C o me ( C o )

Equating the real and imaginary portions of n 2 = ( n 2 2 ) + i ( 2n ) use the following trick:

2

2

2

1

1

2 i

2 i ( i ) (1 i ) 1 i

= 2

=

i

=

= 2 2

= 2 2

2

2 + i ( 2 + i ) ( 2 i ) 4 + 2 2

( + 2 )

( + 2 ) +

2

P2 (1 i )

P2 ( ) P

= 1

= 1 2

+i 2

= ( n 2 2 ) + i ( 2n )

n ( ) = 1 2

2

2

2

2

+ i

+

+ +

P2

= n 2 2

n 2 ( ) 2 ( ) = 1

Now define: x ( )

P2

2

+ 2)

P2

2

+ 2)

= 2 n

( ) P2

=

2

n

and

( ) ( ) 2 2

+

and x ( ) ( ) .

Then: n 2 ( ) 2 ( ) = 1 x ( ) and: 2n ( ) ( ) = ( ) x ( ) = x ( ) x ( )

Thus: =

x x

2n

n2 2 = 1 x n2

x2 x2

4n 2

= (1 x ) or: n 4 (1 x ) n 2 x x = 0

2

Let x n , then: x (1 x ) x x x = 0 which is a quadratic equation of the form:

2

2

ax 2 + bx + c = 0 with: a = 1, b = (1 x ) and c = x x .

2

must select +ve root on physical grounds!

b b 2 4ac (1 x )

=

The solution is: x =

2a

2

(1 x ) + x2 x2

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

11

Lect. Notes 8

n ( )

2

1 ( ) )

(

=

1+

( ) x ( )

1 + x

1 x ( )

(1 ( ) ) 1 +

( ) x ( )

1 + x

1 x ( )

Where: n ( ) =

And:

( ) =

x ( ) x ( )

2n ( )

where: P

ne e 2

o me

x ( )

P2

2

+ 2)

n e2

and: e

me C

P2

=

( C o )

Typical -factors for metals are = 1 relax 1013 1014 rad / sec .

Hence, in a typical metal/conductor we see that: P = P relax ~ 102 -103

Thus, at high frequencies (

P

Then: x ( ) 2

2

( + )

1 and: x ( )

And:

And:

( ) =

1 x ( )

1

1 P 1 P 1 {Using 1 2 1 12 2 for

2

x ( ) x ( )

2n ( )

( )

1}

P

2

1

1 P 2 2

2 1

2

1 at high frequencies.

real part n ( ) at high frequencies.

12

1 at high frequencies.

P

P

2

x x

P

2

2

1x

P

P

1

1

Then: n ( )

):

P2

1 i.e. P

P !!!

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

Lect. Notes 8

Some {alkali} metals are transparent / begin to be transparent in the UV region of the EM spectrum!

P =

Metal

7

3

Alkali Metals

Li

c 2 c

=

f P P

ne e 2

o me

155.0 nm

23

11

Na

209.0 nm

39

19

287.0 nm

63

29

Cu

114.7 nm

85

37

Rb

322.0 nm UV

k ( ) ,

with: k ( ) = n ( ) and thus: k ( ) = n ( ) and: ( ) = ( ) .

c

c

c

Thus, since ( )

k ( ) in the high-frequency (

( )

0 for

k ( )

k = B = tan 1

and thus we see that B is {nearly} in-phase with E for EM waves propagating in

metals/conductors with frequency above the plasma frequency ( > P ) .

Above the plasma frequency, we also have

Fe ( r , t ) = me a ( r , t ) = me

Because E ( r , t ) = Eo e

i kz t

, such that:

dv ( r , t )

+ me v ( r , t ) = eE ( r , t ) me a ( r , t ) = eE ( r , t )

dt

in a metal oscillate in-phase with the driving E of the monochromatic EM wave for > P .

Professor Steven Errede, Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

13

Lect. Notes 8

Above the plasma frequency P , a metals complex index of refraction is real (i.e. absorption is

small), and the conductor becomes increasingly transparent as is increased beyond P .

Note also that n ( ) < 1 for > P {i.e. in the anomalous dispersion region}!!!

2

n ( ) 1 P for ( > P )

( ) P for ( > P )

and:

for non-magnetic conductors at high frequencies ( > P ) , i.e. ( ) o = K e ( ) 1 for > p ;

c 1

=

the skin depth for > p is: sc ( ) =

( ) ( )

1

Below the plasma frequency P , the index of refraction is complex, i.e. ( ) is large and

therefore non-negligible; Metals are thus opaque for < P .

: k ( ) ( )

( )

and k = tan 1

k ( )

tan 1 (1)

The free / conduction electrons in a dispersive conductor also lag E -field by same phase lag.

For < P , since the incident EM wave is not transmitted, much of the EM wave is reflected.

tenuous electronic plasma in the laboratory, the electrons are {truly} free, hence damping is

negligible ( 0 ) in such situations.

Then for situations with negligible damping, i.e. 0 , the above relations simply somewhat:

2

( )

ne e 2

P

2

2

n ( ) =

= K e ( ) = (1 + e ( ) ) e ( n ( ) ) n ( ) 1

with:

P

o

o me

2

The above relation holds {i.e. is valid} over a wide range of frequencies, including < .

For situations with 0 , the imaginary part of complex n ( ) ,

( ) = m ( n ( ) )

0 because 0 .

14

1 P

c

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

Lect. Notes 8

n.b. In dispersive conducting media, is not small, so the above formulae apply only for

1 P for < P implies that k is purely imaginary!!!

In a tenuous plasma: k =

c

EM waves with < P incident on such a plasma are reflected for < P , because the EM

fields inside tenuous plasma are exponentially attenuated by the factor e kz .

It is precisely this fact that enables e.g. short-wave radio communication around the globe

the short-wave radio waves reflect off of the plasma in the earths ionosphere! {see handout}

For tenuous electron plasmas in the laboratory:

ne

P =

ne e 2

o me

( )

P c at = 0.

sc ( = 0 ) =

1

c

=

0.5 cm 5 103 cm for static (or low-frequency) EM fields

( = 0 ) P

Expulsion of EM fields within a plasma is well-known phenomena, e.g. in controlled thermonuclear processes, and can also be exploited e.g. in attempts at confinement of a hot plasma.

Isotropic Dispersive Conductive Medium

In a conducting medium, metals in particular, the optical / EM properties of many metals are

dominated by the free electrons in the metal, resulting in high reflectance R ~ 85-95%, nearly

independent of the frequency / wavelength of the incident light, at least in the visible light region

of the EM spectrum (~ 350 nm < < 780 nm). These free electrons in such metals as aluminum,

tin, sodium, potassium, cesium, vanadium, niobium, gadolinium, holmium, yttrium, scandium,

osmium, and even iron have a silvery-gray appearance {due to visible light photons scattering off

of the free electrons in the metal} essentially these metals are colorless because of their

wavelength-independent reflectance, but remember / realize that the physical color of an object

illuminated e.g. by white light (= flat distribution in frequency) is reflected light hence the

illuminated object is a poor absorber of light at that wavelength indeed, the object preferentially

absorbs light at other frequencies / wavelengths, and not so much at the frequency / wavelength

associated with the color we perceive it to be, from reflected light see figure below:

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

15

Lect. Notes 8

Some conducting metals, such as gold and copper, as well as various alloys e.g. bronze and

brass (zinc, tin and copper) do not have a silvery-gray appearance, but have a yellow / orange /

red tinge to them. This is because these metals preferentially absorb (i.e. transmit) in the

green-blue region and thus reflect more-so in the yellow / orange / red region of the visible light

spectrum, giving these metals their characteristic hues / colors.

Indeed, e.g. gold-metalized sun glasses having a very thin layer of gold deposited on them

have transmittance T(f) which is peaked in the green portion of the visible spectrum. Goggles

coated with a thin gold layer are used e.g. by people who work around high-temperature furnaces

because while visible light from the furnace (which is peaked in the green) is transmitted,

infrared light (i.e. heat) is strongly absorbed by gold!

Because free / conduction electrons in a metal have no resonances (except the one at = 0)

because there are no restoring forces acting on them. In such metals as gold and copper, bound

electrons e.g. in the so-called valence bands of the metal also play a non-negligible role e.g. in

the optical properties of the metal i.e. in the visible light portion of the EM spectrum!

Since (i.e. we assume) the response of the free electrons in the conduction band is separable

/ independent of the response of the bound electrons in the valence band(s) to incident EM waves

(valid as long as the amplitudes of E / B are not too large). Thus we {again} use the principle of

linear superposition e.g. for the complex electric permittivity: tot ( ) = bound ( ) + free ( )

bound

osc

b 2

n

n

bound

f

n

e

j

with:

osc

e

f

=1

where: bound ( ) = o 1 +

j

2

2

j =1

o e j =1 1 j i j

3

e

n.b. nb = # density (= #/m ) of bound atomic electrons in the dispersive conducting medium

16

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

Lect. Notes 8

n f e2

P2

P2

1

o

o

2

2

( 2 + i 0 )

o me 0 i 0

+ + i 0

where: 0 = 0 and nef = # density (#/m3) of free conduction-band electrons in the dispersive

conducting medium, and the plasma frequency of the dispersive conducting medium is:

nef e 2

P

o me

bound

osc

b 2

n

f

ne e

P2

j

= 1 + tot

2

Then: tot ( ) = o 1 +

e ( ))

2

2

o(

o me j =1 1 j i j + i 0

tot ( ) = o (1 + etot ( ) )

= etot ( )

bound

osc

b 2

n

f

(

)

ne e

P2

j

tot ( )

2

2

= (1 + etot ( ) )

n ( ) =

=

= 1 +

2

2

o o o me j =1 1 j i j + i 0

with: n 2 ( ) = ( n + i )( n + i ) = ( n 2 2 ) + i ( 2n )

Complex n ( ) = n ( ) + i ( ) is again related to complex k ( ) = k ( ) + i ( ) by:

c

c

c

k ( ) = n ( ) or: n ( ) = k ( ) with: n ( ) = k ( ) and: ( ) = ( )

c

2005-2011. All Rights Reserved.

17

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