A particle can indeed absorb more than the light incident on it. Metallic particles at ultraviolet frequencies are one class of such particles and insulating particles at infrared frequencies are another. In the former strong absorption is associated with excitation of surface plasmons; in the latter it is associated with excitation of surface phonons. In both instances the target area a particle presents to incident light can be much greater than its geometrical cross‐sectional area. This is strikingly evident from the field lines of the Poynting vector in the vicinity of a small sphere illuminated by a plane wave.

This content is only available via PDF.
AAPT members receive access to the American Journal of Physics and The Physics Teacher as a member benefit. To learn more about this member benefit and becoming an AAPT member, visit the Joining AAPT page.