Plane-wave propagation in media with electromagnetic anisotropy

David Romero-Abad, José Pedro Reyes-Portales, Roberto Suárez-Córdova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The propagation of electromagnetic waves in a medium with electrical and magnetic anisotropy is a subject that is not usually handled in conventional optics and electromagnetism books. During this work, we try to give a pedagogical approach to the subject, using tools that are accessible to an average physics student. In this article, we obtain the Fresnel relation in a media with electromagnetic anisotropy, which corresponds to a quartic equation in the refraction index, assuming only that the principal axes of the electric and magnetic tensors coincide. Additionally, we find the geometric location related to the different situations the discriminant of the quartic equation provides. In order to illustrate our findings, we determine the refractive index together with the plane wave equations for certain values of the parameters that meet the established conditions. The target readers of the paper are students pursuing physics at the intermediate undergraduate level.

Original languageEnglish
Article number025301
JournalEuropean Journal of Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • electromagnetic anisotropy
  • Fresnel equation
  • plane-wave propagation


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