Covariant formulation of classical electromagnetism
The covariant formulation of classical electromagnetism refers to ways of writing the laws of classical electromagnetism (in particular, Maxwell's equations and the Lorentz force) in a form that is manifestly invariant under Lorentz transformations, in the formalism of special relativity using rectilinear inertial coordinate systems. These expressions both make it simple to prove that the laws of classical electromagnetism take the same form in any inertial coordinate system, and also provide a way to translate the fields and forces from one frame to another. However, this is not as general as Maxwell's equations in curved spacetime or non-rectilinear coordinate systems.
This article uses SI units for the purely spatial components of tensors (including vectors), the classical treatment of tensors and the Einstein summation convention throughout, and the Minkowski metric has the form diag (+1, −1, −1, −1). Where the equations are specified as holding in a vacuum, one could instead regard them as the formulation of Maxwell's equations in terms of total charge and current.
For a more general overview of the relationships between classical electromagnetism and special relativity, including various conceptual implications of this picture, see Classical electromagnetism and special relativity.
- 1 Covariant objects
- 2 Maxwell's equations in vacuum
- 3 Lorentz force
- 4 Conservation laws
- 5 Covariant objects in matter
- 6 Maxwell's equations in matter
- 7 Lagrangian for classical electrodynamics
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes and references
- 10 Further reading
For background purposes, we present here three other relevant four-vectors, which are not directly connected to electromagnetism, but which will be useful in this article:
- In meter, the "position" or "coordinate" four-vector is
- where γ(u) is the Lorentz factor at the 3-velocity u.
The electromagnetic tensor is the combination of the electric and magnetic fields into a covariant antisymmetric tensor. In volt·seconds·meter−2, the field strength tensor is written in terms of fields as:1
and the result of raising its indices is
In volt·seconds·meter−1, the electromagnetic four-potential is a covariant four-vector containing the electric potential (also called the scalar potential) φ and magnetic vector potential (or vector potential) A, as follows:
The relation between the electromagnetic potentials and the electromagnetic fields is given by the following equation:
The electromagnetic stress-energy tensor can be interpreted as the flux (density) of the momentum 4-vector, and is a contravariant symmetric tensor which is the contribution of the electromagnetic fields to the overall stress-energy tensor. In joule·meter−3, it is given by
The electromagnetic field tensor F constructs the electromagnetic stress-energy tensor T by the equation:
where η is the Minkowski metric tensor. Notice that we use the fact that
which is predicted by Maxwell's equations.
In a vacuum (or for the microscopic equations, not including macroscopic material descriptions) Maxwell's equations can be written as two tensor equations.
The first tensor equation corresponds to four scalar equations, one for each value of β. The second tensor equation actually corresponds to 43 = 64 different scalar equations, but only four of these are independent. Using the antisymmetry of the electromagnetic field one can either reduce to an identity (0 = 0) or render redundant all the equations except for those with λ, μ, ν = either 1,2,3 or 2,3,0 or 3,0,1 or 0,1,2.
In the absence of sources, Maxwell's equations reduce to:
which is an electromagnetic wave equation in the field strength tensor.
The Lorenz gauge condition is a Lorentz-invariant gauge condition. (This can be contrasted with other gauge conditions such as the Coulomb gauge; if it holds in one inertial frame it will generally not hold in any other.) It is expressed in terms of the four-potential as follows:
In the Lorenz gauge, the microscopic Maxwell's equations can be written as:
Electromagnetic (EM) fields affect the motion of electrically charged matter: due to the Lorentz force. In this way, EM fields can be detected (with applications in particle physics, and natural occurrences such as in aurorae). In relativistic form, the Lorentz force (in newtons) uses the field strength tensor as follows.3
In the co-moving reference frame, this yields the so-called 4-force
In a continuous medium, the 3D density of force combines with the density of power to form a covariant 4-vector, fμ. The spatial part is the result of dividing the force on a small cell (in 3-space) by the volume of that cell. The time component is 1/c times the power transferred to that cell divided by the volume of the cell. The density of Lorentz force is the part of the density of force due to electromagnetism. Its spatial part is
In manifestly covariant notation it becomes:
The relationship between Lorentz force and electromagnetic stress-energy tensor is
The continuity equation:
expresses charge conservation.
Using the Maxwell equations, one can see that the electromagnetic stress-energy tensor (defined above) satisfies the following differential equation, relating it to the electromagnetic tensor and the current four-vector
which expresses the conservation of linear momentum and energy by electromagnetic interactions.
In order to solve the equations of electromagnetism given here, it is necessary to add information about how to calculate the electric current, Jν Frequently, it is convenient to separate the current into two parts, the free current and the bound current, which are modeled by different equations;
which determines the bound current
The three field tensors are related by:
which is equivalent to the definitions of the D and H fields given above.
The result is that Ampère's law,
and Gauss's law,
combine into one equation:
The bound current and free current as defined above are automatically and separately conserved
In a vacuum, the constitutive relations between the field tensor and displacement tensor are:
Antisymmetry reduces these 16 equations to just six independent equations. Because it is usual to define Fμν by
the constitutive equations may, in a vacuum, be combined with Gauss-Ampère law to get:
The electromagnetic stress-energy tensor in terms of the displacement is:
where δαπ is the Kronecker delta. When the upper index is lowered with η, it becomes symmetric and is part of the source of the gravitational field.
Thus we have reduced the problem of modeling the current, Jν to two (hopefully) easier problems — modeling the free current, Jνfree and modeling the magnetization and polarization, . For example, in the simplest materials at low frequencies, one has
In the interaction term, the four-current should be understood as an abbreviation of many terms expressing the electric currents of other charged fields in terms of their variables; the four-current is not itself a fundamental field.
The Euler-Lagrange equation for the electromagnetic Lagrangian density can be stated as follows:
the expression inside the square bracket is
The second term is
Therefore, the electromagnetic field's equations of motion are
which is one of the Maxwell equations above.
Separating the free currents from the bound currents, another way to write the Lagrangian density is as follows:
Using Euler-Lagrange equation, the equations of motion for can be derived.
The equivalent expression in non-relativistic vector notation is
- Relativistic electromagnetism
- Electromagnetic wave equation
- Liénard–Wiechert potential for a charge in arbitrary motion
- Nonhomogeneous electromagnetic wave equation
- Moving magnet and conductor problem
- Electromagnetic tensor
- Proca action
- Stueckelberg action
- Quantum electrodynamics
- Wheeler-Feynman absorber theory
- Vanderlinde, Jack (2004), classical electromagnetic theory, Springer, pp. 313–328, ISBN 9781402026997
- Classical Electrodynamics by Jackson, 3rd Edition, Chapter 11 Special Theory of Relativity
- The assumption is made that no forces other than those originating in E and B are present, that is, no gravitational, weak or strong forces.
- D.J. Griffiths (2007). Introduction to Electrodynamics (3rd ed.). Dorling Kindersley. p. 563. ISBN 81-7758-293-3.
- Einstein, A. (1961). Relativity: The Special and General Theory. New York: Crown. ISBN 0-517-02961-8.
- Misner, Charles; Thorne, Kip S. & Wheeler, John Archibald (1973). Gravitation. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-0344-0.
- Landau, L. D. and Lifshitz, E. M. (1975). Classical Theory of Fields (Fourth Revised English Edition). Oxford: Pergamon. ISBN 0-08-018176-7.
- R. P. Feynman, F. B. Moringo, and W. G. Wagner (1995). Feynman Lectures on Gravitation. Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-62734-5.