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Virtual power principle and Maxwell's tensor: which comes first?

Alain Bossavit (LGEP, CNRS & Université Paris‐Sud, Gif‐sur‐Yvette, France)



The purpose of this paper is to clarify the status of Maxwell's tensor with respect to the virtual power principle (VPP).


Mathematical analysis is employed.


The VPP, logically stronger, is more fundamental. Maxwell's tensor derives from it, under further restrictive assumptions, and hence, its range of applicability is limited. In particular, it fails to deal with some aspects of magnetostriction.


The paper shows that when magnetic constitutive laws depend, locally, on strain, the body force is not, as a rule, the divergence of the Maxwell tensor. People who intend to compute forces this way should be wary of that.



Bossavit, A. (2011), "Virtual power principle and Maxwell's tensor: which comes first?", COMPEL - The international journal for computation and mathematics in electrical and electronic engineering, Vol. 30 No. 6, pp. 1804-1814.



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