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Wave Plates


Excerpt from Field Guide to Polarization

Wave plates have the property that along the x-axis (called the fast axis) the x component of the field experiences a phase shift of +φ/2 and, similarly, wave_platealong the y-axis (called the slow axis) the y component experiences a phase shift of
-φ/2. The configuration for the wave plate is seen in the figure.

The Mueller matrix for a wave plate is then found to be

equation_1

where φ is the total phase shift between the orthogonal components of the beam. Two forms of the Mueller matrices that are very important in polarization are the quarter-wave plate (QWP) (φ = π/2) and the half-wave plate (HWP) (φ = π):

equation_2

The QWP has the interesting property that it transforms L+45P light to RCP light. This is shown in the following Stokes vector calculation:

equation_3

Similarly, RCP light is transformed to L-45P light:

equation_4

The HWP has the unique property in that it reverses the ellipticity and orientation angles of the polarization ellipse:

equation_5

The orientation and ellipticity angles are expressed, respectively, for the output beam by

equation_6

Comparing the elements of the Stokes vector shows that

equation_7

Citation:

E. Collett, Field Guide to Polarization, SPIE Press, Bellingham, WA (2005).



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Edward Collett
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