When an electromagnetic wave passes through a medium, the electric component of the wave will induce a dipole. I believe this can happen in a number of different ways, including rotating of a polar molecule such as water, or imposing a dielectric displacement between positive and negative charges in a non-polar substance.

Is it possible to characterize this interaction with the particle picture of light? For instance, what happens regarding a single photon and a single water molecule, if the EM wave causes a rotation? Is the photon absorbed into a rotational mode of the molecule? Is another photon then emitted? Are the direction, wavelength and other properties of the new photon determined in some way by the initial conditions, or are they random?

  • $\begingroup$ Cannot be done, I think. One would need to involve all the charges (electrons and nuclei) to to the complete QFT treatment. It has been done for light scattering by a hydrogen atom, and that is difficult enough. $\endgroup$ – Pieter May 14 '18 at 21:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Pieter what kind of scattering was it done for? $\endgroup$ – Arthur Fabian May 15 '18 at 0:48

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