Electromagnetic field

An electromagnetic field (also EM field or EMF) is a classical (i.e. non-quantum) field produced by accelerating electric charges.[1] It is the field described by classical electrodynamics and is the classical counterpart to the quantized electromagnetic field tensor in quantum electrodynamics. The electromagnetic field propagates at the speed of light (in fact, this field can be identified as light) and interacts with charges and currents. Its quantum counterpart is one of the four fundamental forces of nature (the others are gravitation, weak interaction and strong interaction.)

The field can be viewed as the combination of an electric field and a magnetic field. The electric field is produced by stationary charges, and the magnetic field by moving charges (currents); these two are often described as the sources of the field. The way in which charges and currents interact with the electromagnetic field is described by Maxwell's equations and the Lorentz force law.[2] The force created by the electric field is much stronger than the force created by the magnetic field.[3]

From a classical perspective in the history of electromagnetism, the electromagnetic field can be regarded as a smooth, continuous field, propagated in a wavelike manner. By contrast, from the perspective of quantum field theory, this field is seen as quantized; meaning that the free quantum field (i.e. non-interacting field) can be expressed as the Fourier sum of creation and annihilation operators in energy-momentum space while the effects of the interacting quantum field may be analyzed in perturbation theory via the S-matrix with the aid of a whole host of mathematical technologies such as the Dyson series, Wick's theorem, correlation functions, time-evolution operators, Feynman diagrams etc. Note that the quantized field is still spatially continuous; its energy states however are discrete (the field's energy states must not be confused with its energy values, which are continuous; the quantum field's creation operators create multiple discrete states of energy called photons.)

A sinusoidal electromagnetic wave propagating along the positive z-axis, showing the electric field (blue) and magnetic field (red) vectors.

Share this article:

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Electromagnetic field, and is written by contributors. Text is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International License; additional terms may apply. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.