The insight that a beam of light can carry orbital angular momentum (AM) in its propagation direction came up in 1992 as a surprise. Nevertheless, the existence of momentum and AM of an electromagnetic field has been well known since the days of Maxwell. We compare the expressions for densities of AM in general three-dimensional modes and in paraxial modes. Despite their classical nature, these expressions have a suggestive quantum mechanical appearance, in terms of linear operators acting on mode functions. In addition, paraxial wave optics has several analogies with real quantum mechanics, both with the wave function of a free quantum particle and with a quantum harmonic oscillator. We discuss how these analogies can be applied.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Optical orbital angular momentum’.
One contribution of 14 to a theme issue ‘Optical orbital angular momentum’.
- Accepted July 13, 2016.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.