Introduction to Helicity and Electromagnetic Duality Transformations in Optics

Ivan Fernandez-Corbaton*, Gabriel Molina-Terriza

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter presents a detailed introduction to a fundamental non-geometrical symmetry of electromagnetic fields: electromagnetic duality. This symmetry appears in free-space Maxwell equations which remain invariant under the exchange of electric and magnetic fields E → H and H → - E. More generally, they also remain invariant under certain parametric combinations of the electric and magnetic vector fields of which the exchange referred to before is a particular case. This continuous symmetry is called electromagnetic duality. The conserved quantity related to electromagnetic duality is the optical helicity. The chapter also presents a detailed account of the fundamental properties of both electromagnetic duality and optical helicity and how to use and measure them in photonics experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFundamentals of Photonics and Physics
EditorsDavid L. Andrews
Place of PublicationHoboken, New Jersey
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781119009719
ISBN (Print)9781118225530
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Electromagnetic duality
  • Maxwell equations
  • Optical helicity
  • Photonics experiments


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