Jefimenko's equations

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In electromagnetism, Jefimenko's equations (named after Oleg D. Jefimenko) give the electric field and magnetic field due to a distribution of electric charges and electric current in space, that takes into account the propagation delay (retarded time) of the fields due to the finite speed of light and relativistic effects. Therefore they can be used for moving charges and currents. They are the general solutions to Maxwell's equations for any arbitrary distribution of charges and currents. [1]

Electromagnetism branch of science concerned with the phenomena of electricity and magnetism

Electromagnetism is a branch of physics involving the study of the electromagnetic force, a type of physical interaction that occurs between electrically charged particles. The electromagnetic force usually exhibits electromagnetic fields such as electric fields, magnetic fields, and light, and is one of the four fundamental interactions in nature. The other three fundamental interactions are the strong interaction, the weak interaction, and gravitation. At high energy the weak force and electromagnetic force are unified as a single electroweak force.

Oleg Dmitrovich Jefimenko was a physicist and Professor Emeritus at West Virginia University.

Electric field spatial distribution of vectors representing the force applied to a charged test particle

An electric field is a vector field surrounding an electric charge that exerts force on other charges, attracting or repelling them. Mathematically the electric field is a vector field that associates to each point in space the force, called the Coulomb force, that would be experienced per unit of charge by an infinitesimal test charge at that point. The units of the electric field in the SI system are newtons per coulomb (N/C), or volts per meter (V/m). Electric fields are created by electric charges, or by time-varying magnetic fields. Electric fields are important in many areas of physics, and are exploited practically in electrical technology. On an atomic scale, the electric field is responsible for the attractive force between the atomic nucleus and electrons that holds atoms together, and the forces between atoms that cause chemical bonding. Electric fields and magnetic fields are both manifestations of the electromagnetic force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature.



Electric and magnetic fields

Position vectors r and r' used in the calculation Universal charge distribution.svg
Position vectors r and r′ used in the calculation

Jefimenko's equations give the E field and B field produced by an arbitrary charge or current distribution, of charge density ρ and current density J: [2]

Magnetic field spatial distribution of vectors allowing the calculation of the magnetic force on a test particle

A magnetic field is a vector field that describes the magnetic influence of electrical currents and magnetized materials. In everyday life, the effects of magnetic fields are often seen in permanent magnets, which pull on magnetic materials and attract or repel other magnets. Magnetic fields surround and are created by magnetized material and by moving electric charges such as those used in electromagnets. Magnetic fields exert forces on nearby moving electrical charges and torques on nearby magnets. In addition, a magnetic field that varies with location exerts a force on magnetic materials. Both the strength and direction of a magnetic field varies with location. As such, it is an example of a vector field.

Charge density Electric charge per volume, length or area

In electromagnetism, charge density is the amount of electric charge per unit length, surface area, or volume. Volume charge density is the quantity of charge per unit volume, measured in the SI system in coulombs per cubic meter (C•m−3), at any point in a volume. Surface charge density (σ) is the quantity of charge per unit area, measured in coulombs per square meter (C•m−2), at any point on a surface charge distribution on a two dimensional surface. Linear charge density (λ) is the quantity of charge per unit length, measured in coulombs per meter (C•m−1), at any point on a line charge distribution. Charge density can be either positive or negative, since electric charge can be either positive or negative.

In electromagnetism, current density is the electric current per unit area of cross section. The current density vector is defined as a vector whose magnitude is the electric current per cross-sectional area at a given point in space, its direction being that of the motion of the charges at this point. In SI units, the electric current density is measured in amperes per square metre.

where r′ is a point in the charge distribution, r is a point in space, and

is the retarded time. There are similar expressions for D and H. [3]

Retarded time

In electromagnetism, electromagnetic waves in vacuum travel at the speed of light c, according to Maxwell's Equations. The retarded time is the time when the field began to propagate from the point where it was emitted to an observer. The term "retarded" is used in this context in the sense of propagation delays.

These equations are the time-dependent generalization of Coulomb's law and the Biot–Savart law to electrodynamics, which were originally true only for electrostatic and magnetostatic fields, and steady currents.

Coulombs law Fundamental physical law of electromagnetism

Coulomb's law, or Coulomb's inverse-square law, is a law of physics for quantifying Coulomb's force, or electrostatic force. Electrostatic force is the amount of force with which stationary, electrically charged particles either repel, or attract each other. This force and the law for quantifying it, represent one of the most basic forms of force used in the physical sciences, and were an essential basis to the study and development of the theory and field of classical electromagnetism. The law was first published in 1785 by French physicist Charles-Augustin de Coulomb.

Biot–Savart law Important law of classical magnetism

In physics, specifically electromagnetism, the Biot–Savart law is an equation describing the magnetic field generated by a constant electric current. It relates the magnetic field to the magnitude, direction, length, and proximity of the electric current. The Biot–Savart law is fundamental to magnetostatics, playing a role similar to that of Coulomb's law in electrostatics. When magnetostatics does not apply, the Biot–Savart law should be replaced by Jefimenko's equations. The law is valid in the magnetostatic approximation, and is consistent with both Ampère's circuital law and Gauss's law for magnetism. It is named after Jean-Baptiste Biot and Félix Savart, who discovered this relationship in 1820.

Origin from retarded potentials

Jefimenko's equations can be found [4] from the retarded potentials φ and A:

Retarded potential

In electrodynamics, the retarded potentials are the electromagnetic potentials for the electromagnetic field generated by time-varying electric current or charge distributions in the past. The fields propagate at the speed of light c, so the delay of the fields connecting cause and effect at earlier and later times is an important factor: the signal takes a finite time to propagate from a point in the charge or current distribution to another point in space, see figure below.

which are the solutions to Maxwell's equations in the potential formulation, then substituting in the definitions of the electromagnetic potentials themselves:

and using the relation

replaces the potentials φ and A by the fields E and B.


There is a widespread interpretation of Maxwell's equations indicating that spatially varying electric and magnetic fields can cause each other to change in time, thus giving rise to a propagating electromagnetic wave [5] (electromagnetism). However, Jefimenko's equations show an alternative point of view. [6] Jefimenko says, "...neither Maxwell's equations nor their solutions indicate an existence of causal links between electric and magnetic fields. Therefore, we must conclude that an electromagnetic field is a dual entity always having an electric and a magnetic component simultaneously created by their common sources: time-variable electric charges and currents." [7]

As pointed out by McDonald, [8] Jefimenko's equations seem to appear first in 1962 in the second edition of Panofsky and Phillips's classic textbook. [9] David Griffiths, however, clarifies that "the earliest explicit statement of which I am aware was by Oleg Jefimenko, in 1966" and characterizes equations in Panofsky and Phillips's textbook as only "closely related expressions" [10] . According to Andrew Zangwill, the equations analogous to Jefimenko's but in the Fourier frequency domain were first derived by George Adolphus Schott in his treaties Electromagnetic Radiation (University Press, Cambridge, 1912) [11] .

Essential features of these equations are easily observed which is that the right hand sides involve "retarded" time which reflects the "causality" of the expressions. In other words, the left side of each equation is actually "caused" by the right side, unlike the normal differential expressions for Maxwell's equations where both sides take place simultaneously. In the typical expressions for Maxwell's equations there is no doubt that both sides are equal to each other, but as Jefimenko notes, "... since each of these equations connects quantities simultaneous in time, none of these equations can represent a causal relation." [12] The second feature is that the expression for E does not depend upon B and vice versa. Hence, it is impossible for E and B fields to be "creating" each other. Charge density and current density are creating them both.

See also


  1. Oleg D. Jefimenko, Electricity and Magnetism: An Introduction to the Theory of Electric and Magnetic Fields, Appleton-Century-Crofts (New-York - 1966). 2nd ed.: Electret Scientific (Star City - 1989), ISBN   978-0-917406-08-9. See also: David J. Griffiths, Mark A. Heald, Time-dependent generalizations of the Biot–Savart and Coulomb laws, American Journal of Physics 59 (2) (1991), 111-117.
  2. Introduction to Electrodynamics (3rd Edition), D. J. Griffiths, Pearson Education, Dorling Kindersley, 2007, ISBN   81-7758-293-3.
  3. Oleg D. Jefimenko, Solutions of Maxwell's equations for electric and magnetic fields in arbitrary media, American Journal of Physics 60 (10) (1992), 899–902.
  4. Introduction to Electrodynamics (3rd Edition), D.J. Griffiths, Pearson Education, Dorling Kindersley, 2007, ISBN   81-7758-293-3
  5. Kinsler, P. (2011). "How to be causal: time, spacetime, and spectra". Eur. J. Phys. 32: 1687. arXiv: 1106.1792 . Bibcode:2011EJPh...32.1687K. doi:10.1088/0143-0807/32/6/022.
  6. Oleg D. Jefimenko, Causality Electromagnetic Induction and Gravitation, 2nd ed.: Electret Scientific (Star City - 2000) Chapter 1, Sec. 1-4, page 16 ISBN   0-917406-23-0.
  7. Oleg D. Jefimenko, Causality Electromagnetic Induction and Gravitation, 2nd ed.: Electret Scientific (Star City - 2000) Chapter 1, Sec. 1-5, page 16 ISBN   0-917406-23-0.
  8. Kirk T. McDonald, The relation between expressions for time-dependent electromagnetic fields given by Jefimenko and by Panofsky and Phillips, American Journal of Physics 65 (11) (1997), 1074-1076.
  9. Wolfgang K. H. Panofsky, Melba Phillips, Classical Electricity And Magnetism, Addison-Wesley (2nd. ed - 1962), Section 14.3. The electric field is written in a slightly different - but completely equivalent - form. Reprint: Dover Publications (2005), ISBN   978-0-486-43924-2.
  10. David J. Griffiths, Introduction to Electrodynamics, Prentice Hall (New Jersey), 3rd edition (1999), pp. 427—429
  11. Andrew Zangwill, Modern Electrodynamics, Cambridge University Press, 1st edition (2013), pp. 726—727, 765
  12. Oleg D. Jefimenko, Causality Electromagnetic Induction and Gravitation, 2nd ed.: Electret Scientific (Star City - 2000) Chapter 1, Sec. 1-1, page 6 ISBN   0-917406-23-0.

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