Lorenz gauge condition

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In electromagnetism, the Lorenz gauge or Lorenz gauge condition is a partial gauge fixing of the electromagnetic vector potential. The condition is that . This does not completely fix the gauge: one can still make a gauge transformation where is a harmonic scalar function (that is, a scalar function satisfying , the equation of a massless scalar field).

The Lorenz condition is used to eliminate the redundant spin-0 component in the (1/2, 1/2) representation of the Lorentz group. It is equally used for massive spin-1 fields where the concept of gauge transformations does not apply at all.

The Lorenz condition is named after Ludvig Lorenz. It is a Lorentz invariant condition, and is frequently called the "Lorentz condition" because of confusion with Hendrik Lorentz, after whom Lorentz covariance is named.[1]


In electromagnetism, the Lorenz condition is generally used in calculations of time-dependent electromagnetic fields through retarded potentials.[2] The condition is

where is the four-potential, the comma denotes a partial differentiation and the repeated index indicates that the Einstein summation convention is being used. The condition has the advantage of being Lorentz invariant. It still leaves substantial gauge degrees of freedom.

In ordinary vector notation and SI units, the condition is:

where is the magnetic vector potential and is the electric potential; see also Gauge fixing.

In Gaussian units the condition is:

A quick justification of the Lorenz gauge can be found using Maxwell's equations and the relation between the magnetic vector potential and the magnetic field:


Since the curl is zero, that means there is a scalar function such that . This gives the well known equation for the electric field, . This result can be plugged into another one of Maxwell's equations,

This leaves,

To have Lorentz invariance, the time derivatives and spatial derivatives must be treated equally (i.e. of the same order). Therefore, it is convenient to choose the Lorenz gauge condition, which gives the result

A similar procedure with a focus on the electric scalar potential and making the same gauge choice will yield

These are simpler and more symmetric forms of the inhomogeneous Maxwell's equations. Note that the Coulomb gauge also fixes the problem of Lorentz invariance, but leaves a coupling term with first-order derivatives.

Here is the vacuum velocity of light, and is the d'Alembertian operator. Interestingly, and unexpectedly at a first glance, these equations are not only valid under vacuum conditions, but also in polarized media [3] , if and are source density and circulation density, respectively, of the electromagnetic induction fields and calculated as usual from and by the equations and The explicit solutions for and – unique, if all quantities vanish sufficiently fast at infinity – are known as retarded potentials.


When originally published, Lorenz's work was not received well by Maxwell. Maxwell had eliminated the Coulomb electrostatic force from his derivation of the electromagnetic wave equation since he was working in what would nowadays be termed the Coulomb gauge. The Lorenz gauge hence contradicted Maxwell's original derivation of the EM wave equation by introducing a retardation effect to the Coulomb force and bringing it inside the EM wave equation alongside the time varying electric field, which was introduced in Lorenz's paper "On the identity of the vibrations of light with electrical currents". Lorenz's work was the first symmetrizing shortening of Maxwell's equations after Maxwell himself published his 1865 paper. In 1888, retarded potentials came into general use after Heinrich Rudolf Hertz's experiments on electromagnetic waves. In 1895, a further boost to the theory of retarded potentials came after J. J. Thomson's interpretation of data for electrons (after which investigation into electrical phenomena changed from time-dependent electric charge and electric current distributions over to moving point charges).[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jackson, J.D.; Okun, L.B. (2001), "Historical roots of gauge invariance", Reviews of Modern Physics, 73 (3): 663–680, Bibcode:2001RvMP...73..663J, arXiv:hep-ph/0012061Freely accessible, doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.73.663 
  2. ^ a b McDonald, Kirk T. (1997), "The relation between expressions for time-dependent electromagnetic fields given by Jefimenko and by Panofsky and Phillips" (PDF), American Journal of Physics, 65 (11): 1074–1076, Bibcode:1997AmJPh..65.1074M, doi:10.1119/1.18723 
  3. ^ See for example U. Krey, A. Owen, Basic Theoretical Physics – A Concise Overview, Berlin-Heidelberg-New York, Springer 2007.

External links and further reading[edit]

Further reading
  • L. Lorenz, "On the Identity of the Vibrations of Light with Electrical Currents" Philos. Mag. 34, 287–301, 1867.
  • J. van Bladel, "Lorenz or Lorentz?". IEEE Antennas Prop. Mag. 33, 2, p. 69, April 1991.
  • R. Becker, "Electromagnetic Fields and Interactions", chap. DIII. Dover Publications, New York, 1982.
  • A. O'Rahilly, "Electromagnetics", chap. VI. Longmans, Green and Co, New York, 1938.
  • R. Nevels, C.-S. Shin, "Lorenz, Lorentz, and the gauge", IEEE Antennas Prop. Mag. 43, 3, pp. 70–1, 2001.
  • E. T. Whittaker, "A History of the Theories of Aether and Electricity", Vols. 1–2. New York: Dover, p. 268, 1989.