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EPSRC Reference: EP/C533488/1
Title: The Abraham vs Minkowski Dilemma: An Experimental Resolution
Principal Investigator: Padgett, Professor M
Other Investigators:
Jeffers, Professor J Franke-Arnold, Dr S Allen, Professor L
Girkin, Professor J Barnett, Professor S Loudon, Professor R
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
University of Strathclyde
Department: School of Physics and Astronomy
Organisation: University of Glasgow
Scheme: Standard Research (Pre-FEC)
Starts: 01 October 2005 Ends: 30 September 2008 Value (£): 182,931
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Lasers & Optics
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
EP/C533496/1
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
That light beams carry a momentum that can be used to push things around is of no surprise. Science fiction novels have propose solar sails to propel spaceships between the stars and within the laboratory, scientists actually use the pressure of light to move small objects. The light from a laser pointer striking an object exerts a force less than a billionth of a Newton - small but still measurable.Despite this, our understanding of light's momentum only extends to light in vacuum. What happens when light enters a block of glass is still unknown? Quantum mechanics suggests that the lights momentum is multiplied by the refractive index of the glass, where as quantum mechanics tells us that it is divided by the refractive index of the glass.In this research project we will study not the push of a light beam but its twist, i.e. its angular momentum. By shining short-pulses of circularly polarised light through microscopic objects, the relativity approach (called Abraham) predicts a small rotation whereas the quantum mechanical standpoint (called Minkowski) does not.This is an adventurous project, which requires a number of new technologies to be pioneered, however, in addition to answering a problem that is nearly 100 years old; these new technologies will enable exciting applications in nanoscience and biology.
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.gla.ac.uk