Optical helicity of interfering waves

Robert Cameron, Steve Barnett, Alison Yao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Helicity is a property of light which is familiar from particle physics but less well-known in optics. In this paper we recall the explicit form taken by the helicity of light within classical electromagnetic theory and reflect upon some of its remarkable characteristics. The helicity of light is related to, but is distinct from, the spin of light. To emphasise this fact, we draw a simple analogy between the helicity of light and electric charge and between the spin of light and electric current. We illustrate this and other observations by examining various superpositions of plane waves explicitly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-31
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Modern Optics
Issue number1
Early online date5 Sep 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2014


  • optical
  • helicity
  • interfering waves
  • property of light
  • particle physics
  • optics

Cite this