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# MAXWELL EQUATIONS

1.1 Introduction
In this chapter we introduce the equations, already discussed in other courses, that are at the basis of
the propagation of the electromagnetic waves which is the main issue we are interested in, and we
analyse their basic properties. These equations are the starting point of the course because the
electromagnetic waves are the mean through which we can transfer any information from one point
to another one. In particular, we begin by recalling the relationships that are valid for the static
fields (electrostatic and magnetostatic fields) and in succession we analyse how they modify in
order to take into account the variation in time of the different vector fields. We derive the wave
solution in the particular case when the field generators are set to infinity and we studying detail the
properties of this particular solution.
Finally, we move the source of the electromagnetic field within the space where the electromagnetic
field is analysed, situation that mimic the electromagnetic wave generated by an antenna.

1.2 Static fields
The vector quantities that are peculiar of the electrostatic and magnetostatic fields are the electric
field vector E and the magnetic field vector B, respectively. They are related to their generators that
are the electric charge density and the current density in the following way:

(1.1) 0 = E
= D (1.2)
(1.3) J H =
0 = B (1.4)

Each one of considered quantities depends on the position: E(x,y,z) [V/m] is the electric field
vector, D(x,y,z) [C/m
2
] is the electric flux density also known as the displacement vector or the
electric induction, H(x,y,z) [A/m] is the magnetic field intensity and B(x,y,z) [Wb/m
2
] is the
magnetic flux density or magnetic induction. The relationships reported above represent in
differential terms, physical laws that as such have an integral representation (the electric and
magnetic quantities are in this last case measurable). In the integral form the relationships have a
general validity while in the differential form they are applicable only if the field is derivable in any
point of the space considered.
Equation (1.1) states that the line integral of the electric field E(x,y,z) carried out along any closed
path l is equal to zero i.e. the static electric field is irrotational. The second relation states that the
flux of the electric induction D(x,y,z) trough any closed surface is equal to the total electric charge
contained within the volume enclosed by the closed surface, i.e. the generators of the electric field
are electric charges. The third equation states the line integral along any closed path l of the
magnetic field vector H(x,y,z) is equal to the flux of the current density through any surface having
the above line as contour, i.e. the generators of the magnetic field are the electric currents. The
fourth equation states that the flux of the magnetic induction B(x,y,z) leaving any closed surface is
always equal to zero, i.e. the static magnetic field is solenoidal.

1.3 Dynamic fields

Let us now analyse how the above equations modify in the case of time varying vector fields. (i.e.
E(x,y,z,t)).With reference to equation (1.1), experimental results have shown that it modifies as

B E
t

= (1.5)

This relationship represents in differential terms what the Faraday law states i.e. the line integral of
the E vector along a closed path l is no more equal to zero, but to the time derivative with the sign
changed of the flux of the B vector through any open surface having the line l as the contour.
Also the other curl equation modifies in the case of time varying fields. In fact, there is a
relationship between the electric current density J and the variation with time of the electric charge
volume density given by the so called current continuity equation. In particular, the flux density
J leaving a close surface S is equal to the time variation with the sign changed of the total electric
charge within the volume enclosed by the surface S. In differential terms we write:

## = J i.e. also, from eq. (1.2) 0 =

+ D J
t
(1.6)
It follows that eq. (1.3 ) shall be modified accordingly:

D J H
t

+ = (1.7)

The two equation of the divergence (1.2) e (1.4), on the contrary, do not change.
At the end, the Maxwell equations for time varying fields , written in differential form, are:

B E
t

= (1.8)
= D (1.9)
D J H
t

+ = (1.10)
0 = B (1.11)

Note how these equations link together the electric and the magnetic fields differently from what
happens for the static fields where they are independent each to the other. If we now assume that the
variation in time of the fields are of sinusoidal type, we could make use of the phasor vector
representation where the quantities are complex as for example:

] ) , , ( Re[ ) , , , (
jwt j
e e z y x t z y x

E E = (1.12)

It follows that:

B E jw =
= D (1.13)
D J H jw + =
0 = B

Equations (1.13) come from eqs. (1.8) to (1.11) where the common multiplicative term e
jwt
has been
removed and the time derivative is reduced as well known, to a multiplicative term jw.
The four Maxwell equations are not independent each to the other as we could easily demonstrate
(only two of the four are independent and in the following we will assume that they are the curl
equations) and as a consequence we must add other relationships in order to balance the number of
equations with the number of unknown.
The relationships we add to this aim are the so called constitutive relations relating each to the other
the two vector fields of the electric component and of the magnetic component, separately, through
the physical properties of the medium where the wave propagates into. In the following, reference
is made to the vector phasor representation.

H B =
E D = (1.14)
E J =

In eqs. (1.14) , , , are the magnetic permittivity, the dielectric constant and the electric
conducibilility of the medium. In their most general condition, the three above mentioned quantities
are tensors (square matrices 3x3). In many cases, and in all the ones we consider, the three
quantities result to be constant. The magnetic permittivity is measured in [H/m], in [C/m] and
in [
-1
m
-1
].

1.4 The wave equation

Starting from equation (1.14) we can derive the wave equations for the electric field and the
magnetic field, respectively. Let us consider the simple case of a wave travelling in the vacuum
(free space), with no source inside the space where we want to study the field distribution. In this
case and J are zero, =
0
, =
0
and =0. From equations (1.13) and (1.14) we can write:

(1.15) E E H E
2
0
= = j
being =0 it follows that the divergence of the vector field D is zero and as a consequence also
the divergence of E :

0
0 0
2
= E E
2
(1.16)

We obtain a differential equation to the second order partial derivatives (the wave equation).
To simplify the mathematical notations but without loosing generality, let us suppose that the
electromagnetic wave we want to find the solution of has the electric field vector E directed as the x
axis and propagates along the z direction. In this case, we must solve the scalar equation:

0
0 0
2
2
2
=

x
E
z
E
x
(1.17)
The solution of which is:

z jk z jk
Be Ae z
0 0
) (
+
+ =
x
E (1.18)
where
0 0 0
j k = , known as the wave number.
Equation (1.18) states that the electric field E is the sum of two terms: one represents, as we will see
in detail later, a physical wave propagating along the positive z direction, and the other term
represents a physical wave propagating along the negative z direction. In order to understand the
above statements, let us evaluate the real electric field vector under the hypotheses that the A, B
amplitudes, in general complex quantities, are real:

( ) ( ) ( ) z k t B z k t A e Be Ae t z
t j z jk z jk
0 0
cos cos ) ) Re(( ,
0 0
+ + = + =
+

e (1.19)

The first term in equation (1.19) represents a wave that, as said before, is travelling along the
positive z axis; in fact, the argument of the sinusoidal function depends at the same time on the time
and space coordinates and for increasing z values the wave suffers from a phase delay (minus sign)
as it shall happen for a physical wave. Analogously, the second term represents a wave that as z
increases its phase anticipates (plus sign) and because this should not physically possible, it follows
that this term must represent a wave travelling towards the negative z direction.
We can now analyse with greater detail one of the two terms (similar conclusions are valid also for
the other one) and derive the information about the frequency, the wavelenght and the phase
velocity of the wave.
For a given distance z=z* , we can compute the time T (period) needed to the phase of the wave to
change of 2 :

( )

2
2 2 ) ( ) (
1 2
*
0 1
*
0 2
= = = = T T t t z k t z k t (1.20)
or, fixing the time, we can evaluate the space after which we find the same phase value
(wavelenght):

( ) ( )

2 2
2 2 ) ( ) (
0
0
2 1 2 1 0 1 0
*
2 0
*
= = = = = k
k
z z z z k z k t z k t
(1.21)
To compute the phase velocity we must impose the argument of the angular function to be constant:

( )
0
0 0 0
0 0 cos
k
v
dt
dz
dz k dt z k t d t z k t
f

= = = = = (1.22)
And from the expression of k
0
seen before, it follows that:

c v
f
= =
0 0
1

(1.23)
Equation (1.23) states that the phase velocity of an electromagnetic wave that propagates in the
vacuum is equal to the speed of light and also that the phase velocity depends on the electrical
characteristics of the medium within which the wave propagates. If we remember that apart from
magnetic materials all the others have
r
very close to 1, it comes out that v
f
depends on the
dielectric characteristic of the medium and decreases with the square root of the relative dielectric
constant.

r
f
c
v

=

In order to identify completely an electromagnetic field we must identify also the distribution of the
magnetic field component H. This component is directly derivable from the Maxwell equation the
relates H (unknown) to E (known). It in fact, inappropriate to solve an equation formally equal to
(1.16) in terms of the H field because, being a second order equation, it has two solutions. Indeed
this last procedure would possibly introduce spurious, non physical, solutions.
From eq. (1.8) we obtain:
) (
1 1
0 0
0
0 z jk z jk
x y
Be Ae E
z j
H
j
+
=

= =

E H (1.24)
Notice that H has only the y component with an amplitude given by the one of the E component
multiplied by a quantity named intrinsic admittance of the medium. In the case here considered
that the medium is the free space, the intrinsic impedance (inverse of the admittance) is
0
=377 .
Note also that for the reflected waves there is a change in the sign.
In summary, the electromagnetic wave solution we have derived has the following properties:
The electric and magnetic field components are perpendicular each to the other
Both components are perpendicular to the wave direction of propagation
The ratio between the electric and magnetic field components is equal to the intrinsic
impedance of the medium
This wave is called TEM (Tranvers Elettro-Magnetic wave ).
Graphical representation of a TEM wave is given in Fig. 1-1.

1.5 Lossy media

We want generalize what presented up to now, by considering lossy media (i.e. real media).
In this case the Maxwell equations have the following form:
(1.25)

= = zH H j E
0 = D (1.26)

= + = + = yE E j E j D J H (1.27)
0 = B (1.28)

In (1.27), the term E takes into account the conduction currents within the medium we are
considering, and are associated to the Ohm losses. In the equations, we have introduced
parameters named as impedivity and ammettivity, in such a way that we can re-write the Maxwell
equations in a very simple and symmetric form. Correspondingly, the wave equation assumes this
expression:

y z, ,
0
2
= + E E
2
con (1.29)

= y z
2

The solution of eq. (1.29), under the hypothesis of electric field E directed along the x axis and the
direction of propagation along the z axis, is:
z z
Be Ae
+
+ =
x
E with j + = (1.30)
The quantities and represent the attenuation component and the phase component of the
propagation constant of the medium. Note that in the case of lossless media, is equal to zero and
the solution turns out to be the one previously derived: the wave number k coincides with . It
follows that this solution could be considered as the generalized form of the electromagnetic wave
solution.
In this case:

( ) ( ) ( ) z k t Be z k t Ae e Be Ae t z
z z t j z z
0 0
cos cos ) ) Re(( , + + = + =
+

e (1.31)

Where, for simplicity, A and B are assumed to be real quantities. From eq. (1.31) we can easily
argue, even more clearly, that the first term in the equation, with amplitude A, corresponds to a
wave travelling in the positive z direction because during its travelling the wave amplitude reduces
steadily, while the second term, for the same considerations, represents a physical wave that during
its travelling within a lossy medium reduces in amplitude only if the direction of propagation is
reversed.
The other conclusions reported before are all maintained. The intrinsic impedance of the medium
assumes the most general form:

+
= =

j
j
y
z
(1.32)
and presents both a real and an imaginary component.
As a consequence, E and H are no more in phase as it happened in a lossless medium.

1.6 Energy

To the electromagnetic wave we can associate the transport of a given amount of energy. Because
both the electric and the magnetic fields are specific quantities, we must introduce the power
density S that in case of vector phasor representation is expressed as:
*
2
1
H E S = (1.33)
where S is named Poynting vector and the asterix indicates the complex conjugate quantity. Note
that S is perpendicular to E and to H. If we now consider an electromagnetic wave propagating in
the positive z direction, with the electric field component directed as x and the magnetic field
component as y, it follows that there is only one component of the Poynting vector which is directed
towards z, having the following form:
2
2
2
1
2
1
y
x
z
H
E
S

= = (1.34)
The Poynting vector has a physical meaning only if integrated over a close surface, resulting in the
associated power.

1.7 Radiation from a point source

If the source of the electromagnetic field is at finite distance, i.e. within the space where we want to
evaluate the electromagnetic field distribution, the solution of the wave equation is no more
straightforward and requires the introduction of an intermediate vector field: the vector potential.
We avoid this approach that would require to go back to the Maxwell equations (1.13), re-write
equation (1.16) by taking into account the generators J and solve the corresponding relation. On the
contrary, we try to deduce the form of the solution using an energetic approach.
The information we obtain from this approach are sufficient for our needs.
Let us proceed according to the following logical steps:
a) Assume an isotropic source (i.e. a source irradiating uniformly in any direction) at point A,
i
, at a given frequency f. The associated power density
measurable at distance R from the emitting source, much greater than the wavelength ( =
c/f), it is given by:

2
4 R
P
S
i
i

= (1.35)

where 4R
2
represents the area of the sphere with radius equal to R.

b) According to equation (1.34) the power density associated to an electromagnetic wave is
proportional to the square of the modulus of the electric field vector E.
c) It follows that in order to have equation (1.35) coincident with eq. (1.34), the electric field
E (and as a consequence the corresponding magnetic field H) has to vary with the distance
from the source as 1/R.:

R j
e
R
A
E

= (1.36)

where A is the wave amplitude.

Fig. 1-1 Schematic representation of an electromagnetic wave at two different times