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# Polarized Light

Objective
1. Observe the polarization phenomenon, demonstrate the Malus law.
2. Know about the role of 1/2 and 1/4 wave plate.
3. Master the generation and detection of the elliptically and circularly polarized
light.

Principle
1. Polarization of the light
Light is a kind of electromagnetic wave. Electric-field intensity E is called the light vector due
to its main contribution to the interaction between electromagnetic wave and matters. In the
plane which is perpendicular to the propagation direction of the light wave, light vector may
have different oscillation direction. The state that light vector holds a certain oscillation
direction in a fixed plane is called the plane polarization state and the plane is called the
polarization plane (See fig.1).

The projection of the light vector in the plane which is perpendicular to the propagation
direction is a straight line. So it can also be called linear polarization state. If the light vector
rotates about the propagation direction and the orbit of its endpoint is a circle, this kind of
polarization state is called circular polarization state. If the orbit is elliptical, it becomes
elliptical polarization state (See fig. 2).
The light emitted from the normal source is always the natural light which can not exhibit the
polarization phenomenon. But it can be regarded as a superposition between two incoherent
plane polarized wave with equal amplitude and their oscillation direction is perpendicular to
each other. There is a kind of partially polarized light between natural light and plane polarized
light which can be regarded as a combination of a plane polarized light and a natural light. The
direction of the maximum amplitude of the partially polarized light is the oscillation direction of
the plane polarized light.
(a)
(b)

## plane polarized light whose light vector is perpendicular

to the paper plane

## plane polarized light whose light vector is parallel to the

paper plane
Fig. 1 plane polarized light
z
x
y

Fig. 2 elliptically polarized light
2. Polarizer
Normal sources emit natural light, but there exist all kinds of polarized light in nature.
Polarization devices widely used nowadays is the artificial polarizer which utilizes dichroism to
generate polarized light.
Polarization devices can not only change incident natural light to plane polarized light ----
polarizer, but also be used to identify linear polarized, natural and partially polarized light ----
analyzer. Actually, both of them are universal.

3. Malus law
Suppose the angle between the transmission
direction of the two polarizer is the
amplitude of linear polarized light transmitted
from the polarizer is A
0,
then the amplitude of
linear polarized light transmitted from the analyzer
is A
o cos
0
A A =

The intensity is I
o
o
2
0
2
0
2 2
0
0
cos
cos
I
A
A
I I = =
1
Here I
0
is the amplitude of linear polarized light before incident into analyzer.

4. Generation of elliptically and circularly polarized light, role of 1/2 and 1/4 wave
plate
The resulted optical path difference is

) (
o e
n n d = A

Phase difference is
) (
2
o e
n n d =

t
o
2
Here n
e
is the host refractive index of the e light and n
o
is the
host refractive index of the o light. (in positive crystal
0in negative crystal 0 ) d is the thickness of the crystal.
As shown in Fig. 4, when the light just goes through the
crystal, the oscillation of the two light can be represented as
follows

( ) o e
e
+ =
=
t A E
t A E
e y
o x
cos
cos
3
Here A
e
= A cos A
o
= A sin vanish t in Eq. (3) to obtain the
equation of locus

Fig. 3 polarizer

Fig. 4 situation that the polarized light going through the wafer
o o
2
2
2
2
2
sin cos 2 = +
e o
y x
e
y
o
x
A A
E E
A
E
A
E
4
Its a general elliptic equation.
When the thickness d is changed, the optical path difference will also change.
1When
) , 2 , 1 , 0 ( = = A k k
that is from Eq. 4, it can be obtained that

x
o
e
y
E
A
A
E =
5
Its a linear equation. So the transmitted light is plane polarized light with the oscillation
direction remains. The wafer which satisfies the condition is called full-wave plate. Light goes
through the full-wave plate doesnt change the oscillation state.
2When
) , 2 , 1 , 0 ( 2 / ) 1 2 ( = + = A k k
that is it can be obtained
from Eq. 4

x
o
e
y
E
A
A
E =
6
The transmitted light is also plane polarized light whose oscillation direction rotates an angle of
The wafer which satisfies the condition is called 1/2 wave plate or half plate. When a plane
polarized light pass through the half plate, its oscillation plane rotates an angle of 2 if
= 45, then the oscillation plane of the transmitted light is perpendicular to that of the
incident light.
3when
) , 2 , 1 , 0 ( 4 / ) 1 2 ( = + = A k k
that is from Eq.4, we
can get that
1
2
2
2
2
=
e
y
o
x
A
E
A
E
7
The transmitted light is elliptically polarized light and these two optic axes are parallel and
perpendicular to the main cross section respectively. The wafer which satisfies the condition is
called 1/4 wave plate. 1/4 wave plate is an important element in polarization experiment.
If
o e
A A =
then
2 2 2
A y x = +
the transmitted light is circularly polarized light.
Since the amplitude of o light and e light is function of so the synthesis polarization state
after passing through the 1/4 wave plate will vary with the different angle
Instruments
Semiconductor laser, tungsten iodine lamp, silicon photo-cell, UT51digital
universal meter, polarizer 2 pieces, 1/2wave plate, 1/4wave plate, reflector, a stack
of glass, platform and optical bench and so on.

Data and calculation
1Demonstrate Malus law

Initial degree = 275.9
o

degree of analyzer 0 6 12 18 24 30 36
intensity value 0.8844 0.8752 0.8476 0.7966 0.7339 0.6584 0.573
degree of analyzer 42 48 54 60 66 72 78
intensity value 0.4737 0.3842 0.2944 0.2096 0.1387 0.0747 0.0302
degree of analyzer 84 90 96 102 108 114 120
intensity value 0.0052 -0.005 0.0106 0.0432 0.0865 0.1555 0.2293
degree of analyzer 126 132 138 144 150 156 162
intensity value 0.3098 0.3997 0.4903 0.5961 0.6657 0.7372 0.8042
degree of analyzer 168 174 180
intensity value 0.8479 0.8765 0.8815

2. Phenomenon when the linear polarized light passing through the 1/2 wave plate and
the role of 1/2 wave plate
the degree of 1/2 wave plate
10 20 30 40 50 60
the rotated angle of anylyzer
18.5 22.1 19.4 20.7 20.2 19.9
the degree of 1/2 wave plate
70 80 90 100 110 120
the rotated angle of anylyzer
21.7 20.1 21 18 20 22.1
the degree of 1/2 wave plate
130 140 150 160 170 180
the rotated angle of anylyzer
18.3 20.5 20.6 20.1 21.2 19.2

4. Use 1/4 wave plate to generate circular and elliptical polarized light
For all the plot, I use excel, and turn the polar coordinates to orthogonal coordinates

Initial =236.2
o
, Imax=0.1833
rotated angle 10 20 30 40 50 60
intensity value 0.1759 0.1587 0.1317 0.1019 0.0748 0.0398
rotated angle 70 80 90 100 110 120
intensity value 0.0172 0.0039 -0.004 0.0061 0.022 0.0494
rotated angle 130 140 150 160 170 180
intensity value 0.0803 0.1118 0.1425 0.1647 0.1784 0.1831
rotated angle 190 200 210 220 230 240
intensity value 0.176 0.1578 0.131 0.1008 0.0702 0.0412
rotated angle 250 260 270 280 290 300
intensity value 0.0171 0.0032 -0.005 0.0061 0.0227 0.0481
rotated angle 310 320 330 340 350 360
intensity value 0.0798 0.1141 0.1428 0.1661 0.1793 0.1831

-0.1
-0.08
-0.06
-0.04
-0.02
0
0.02
0.04
0.06
0.08
0.1
-0.22-0.2-0.18 -0.16 -0.14 -0.12-0.1-0.08 -0.06 -0.04 -0.020 0.020.040.060.080.10.120.140.160.180.20.22
0degree
0degree

Turn 20 degree
rotated angle 10 20 30 40 50 60
intensity value 0.1628 0.1607 0.1568 0.1412 0.1176 0.0915
rotated angle 70 80 90 100 110 120
intensity value 0.0686 0.0462 0.0298 0.0199 0.0187 0.0267
rotated angle 130 140 150 160 170 180
intensity value 0.0408 0.0629 0.0852 0.11 0.1329 0.1498
rotated angle 190 200 210 220 230 240
intensity value 0.1591 0.1603 0.1534 0.1383 0.1182 0.0925
rotated angle 250 260 270 280 290 300
intensity value 0.0688 0.0466 0.0296 0.0199 0.0185 0.026
rotated angle 310 320 330 340 350 360
intensity value 0.0403 0.0626 0.0862 0.1138 0.1325 0.1502

-0.12
-0.1
-0.08
-0.06
-0.04
-0.02
0
0.02
0.04
0.06
0.08
0.1
0.12
-0.18-0.16-0.14-0.12-0.1-0.08-0.06-0.04-0.02 0 0.020.040.060.080.10.120.140.160.18
20degree
20degree

Turn 45 degree
rotated angle 10 20 30 40 50 60
intensity value 0.0965 0.0962 0.0954 0.094 0.0923 0.0902
rotated angle 70 80 90 100 110 120
intensity value 0.0884 0.0867 0.0857 0.0852 0.0855 0.0864
rotated angle 130 140 150 160 170 180
intensity value 0.0877 0.0892 0.0911 0.0928 0.0945 0.0952
rotated angle 190 200 210 220 230 240
intensity value 0.0956 0.0955 0.0946 0.0932 0.0913 0.0894
rotated angle 250 260 270 280 290 300
intensity value 0.0877 0.0861 0.0849 0.0846 0.0849 0.0858
rotated angle 310 320 330 340 350 360
intensity value 0.0872 0.0891 0.0909 0.0927 0.0949 0.0955

Analysis and discussion
Error evaluation
Summary

-0.1
-0.08
-0.06
-0.04
-0.02
0
0.02
0.04
0.06
0.08
0.1
-0.12 -0.1 -0.08 -0.06 -0.04 -0.02 0 0.02 0.04 0.06 0.08 0.1 0.12
45degree
45degree