Is it possible to induce skin currents in electrical conductors under an intense linearly polarized beam of sunlight?

What I mean by intense is a focused light with a large lens to increase the intensity before it is passed through a linear polarizer as that will result in an intensity loss downstream. My question is, will this linearly polarized beam be able to oscillate electrons in a conductor in the direction of polarization to induce a hundred THz level Alternating current? For some metals, a few hundred TeraHertz would still be under its Plasmon frequency.

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    $\begingroup$ If I understand what you're asking then whenever you see light reflected off a metal surface, this is what is happening. The polarization of the light doesn't really matter one way or the other. $\endgroup$ – The Photon Mar 26 at 3:21

However you like to represent light during its movement through space - as a wave or as a stream of photons -, when the light hits the surface, it is a stream of photons. From such a perspective let's see what happens in the individual interaction between a photon and an electron and in the next step how to manipulate the photon stream to achieve your task.


On the surface of a conductor are located freely movable electrons (which at room temperature are moving chaotic). The electron is surrounded by its electric and its magnetic fields. The photon on its part has an oscillating electric field component as well as an onscillating magnetic field component.

Now imagine a model with a setup of two macroscopic bodies, one of them represented by a charged sphere with a permanent magnet inside [the "electron"] and the other by an electric dipole and a magnetic dipole (the "photon"). The second body does not have the oscillating behavior of a photon, but if you rotate such a macroscopic body, it is a good model to show what happens.

To finish the setup, define an angular velocity (to simulate the oscillating field components of the photon), define a distance between the two bodies and than move the “photon” - with a offset to the center of the “electron” - in a way, that the “electron” gets attached (or repulsed) with the maximum possible force. Even if you are able to model this with equations, hardly you are able to reproduce it in a real experiment. The uncertainty about the position and energy of the electrons alone prevents precise manipulation of the desired interaction with photons.

Electron interaction with an EM wave

The induction of an electric current from an EM wave is realized in the antenna rod of a receiver. The photons in the EM radiation from the radio source are polarized and are emitted with an oscillating intensity. Not the individual oscillation of the photons field components is able to induce a current in a conductor, it is the periodical change in the amount of coherent photons which is responsible for the electrical current.

Is it possible to induce skin currents in electrical conductors under an intense linearly polarized beam of sunlight?

No, this is not possible with a polarization of an EM radiation from a thermic source only. The polarized beam consists off photons with aligned electric field components but of different amplitudes and with two possible electric dipole directions. In short, the summarized electric field is zero and the summarized influence for a shift of the surface electrons is also zero.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you sich much @HolgerFiedler, that cleared up the basics of EM wave and electron interactions for me. $\endgroup$ – Siddhesh Godbole Mar 27 at 6:32

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