Do waves carrying orbital angular momentum possess azimuthal linear momentum?

Fiona C. Speirits, Stephen M. Barnett

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All beams are a superposition of plane waves, which carry linear momentum in the direction of propagation with no net azimuthal component. However, plane waves incident on a hologram can produce a vortex beam carrying orbital angular momentum that seems to require an azimuthal linear momentum, which presents a paradox. We resolve this by showing that the azimuthal momentum is not a true linear momentum but the azimuthal momentum density is a true component of the linear momentum density.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103602
Number of pages3
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sep 2013


  • beams
  • vortex beams
  • orbital angular momentum
  • azimuthal linear momentum
  • linear momentum density

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