d'Alembert digitized: A wave pulse method for visualizing electromagnetic waves in matter and for deriving the finite difference time domain method for numerically solving Maxwell's equations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

An alternative way of visualizing electromagnetic waves in matter and of deriving the Finite Difference Time Domain (FDTD) method for simulating Maxwell's equations for one-dimensional systems is presented. The method uses d'Alembert's splitting of waves into forward and backward pulses of arbitrary shape and allows for grid spacing and material properties that vary with the position. Constant velocity of waves in dispersionless dielectric materials, partial reflection and transmission at boundaries between materials with different indices of refraction, and partial reflection, transmission, and attenuation through conducting materials are derived without recourse to exponential functions, trigonometric functions, or complex numbers. Placing d'Alembert's method on a grid is shown to be equivalent to the FDTD method and allows for simple and visual proof that the FDTD method is exact for dielectrics when the ratio of the spatial and temporal grid spacing is the wave speed, a straightforward way to incorporate reflectionless boundary conditions and a derivation that the FDTD method retains second-order accuracy when the grid spacing varies with the position and the material parameters make sudden jumps across layer boundaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-171
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Physics
Volume89
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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