What is Birefringence: Definition and 23 Discussions

Birefringence is the optical property of a material having a refractive index that depends on the polarization and propagation direction of light. These optically anisotropic materials are said to be birefringent (or birefractive). The birefringence is often quantified as the maximum difference between refractive indices exhibited by the material. Crystals with non-cubic crystal structures are often birefringent, as are plastics under mechanical stress.
Birefringence is responsible for the phenomenon of double refraction whereby a ray of light, when incident upon a birefringent material, is split by polarization into two rays taking slightly different paths. This effect was first described by the Danish scientist Rasmus Bartholin in 1669, who observed it in calcite, a crystal having one of the strongest birefringences. However, it was not until the 19th century that Augustin-Jean Fresnel described the phenomenon in terms of polarization, understanding light as a wave with field components in transverse polarization (perpendicular to the direction of the wave vector).

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  1. Frigorifico9

    I How different is a calcite crystal from a polarizer?

    First of all, I apologize if I use incorrect terminology or I express myself poorly, I am trying my best. That said, I hope you guys are smart enough to understand me despite my shortcomings I know that calcite has birefringence, and I know that if you take calcite crystals and cut them and...
  2. Frigorifico9

    I Is Calcite a parallel to the Stern-Gerlach experiment?

    When light passes through Calcite it is split into two beams opposite polarizations, doubling the image, and this sounds very similar to the Stern-Gerlach experiment where atoms are split into two beams with opposite polarizations The difference is that with light the opposite polarizations are...
  3. C

    Difference between O and E rays to S and P polarizations

    The problem relates to birefringence and crystal optics. What is the difference between O and E rays to S and P polarizations? Is O-ray just a different name to S-polarization and E-ray a different name to P-polarization? if not, what is the difference?-
  4. SchroedingersLion

    Birefringence in in uniaxial optical media and Snell's law

    Hey guys, is anyone here familiar with birefringence in uniaxial optical media? In such a medium, there are only two types of polarizations allowed for a wave to propagate. A wave with any other polarization will split into two waves with the allowed polarizations (ordinary + extraordinary wave...
  5. Q

    I Birefringent walk off question

    Hi, I am having trouble wrapping my head around a simple (I think?) question about birefringent walkoff: If the crystal is oriented at some angle such that walkoff is nonzero between e and o beams (in a nonlinear conversion process, for example), it seems to me that reflecting the light...
  6. Mordred

    A Vacuum birefringence QFT treatment

    Evidence for vacuum birefringence from the rst optical polarimetry measurement of the isolated neutron star RX J1856.5−3754...
  7. Lensmonkey

    How to calculate birefringence in lithium niobate LiNbO3

    I am trying to calculate what thickness of LiNbO3 would displace a beam of light 9 microns. I seek to make something like a microscope slide that would displace light in the vertical. I am confused about something else if someone can clarify; for the crystal, I think the "z" axis is "optical...
  8. Lensmonkey

    2 layers of birefringent crystal, how many rays?

    I am trying to solve a problem my camera exhibits. It has a sensor with 6000x3376 pixels. HD video is 1920x1080. In order to reduce the amount of information to the processor the camera throws away 2 out of 3 pixel lines. this creates a problem with thin lines tike telephone lines and makes...
  9. spareine

    Why is the birefringence pattern in a car colorless?

    When looking through polarizing glasses at the rear window of a car (tempered glass), a black and white pattern appears. Supposedly, this is the same kind of birefringence that causes colored fringes in a plastic sheet, seen through a polarizer. It is clear that retardation and interference in...
  10. spareine

    Birefringence deviation angle?

    The best known effect of birefringence is the lateral displacement of the extraordinary image. Why is this effect rarely quantified? I couldn't find a table of materials specifying the deviation angle δ of the extraordinary ray (say, for an angle of incidence equal to zero). Birefringence seems...
  11. SalfordPhysics

    Solid State Recommendations for Stress Analysis using Photoelasticity

    I am looking for a robust text on stress analysis using photoelasticity. Razumovsky's "Interference-Optical Methods of Solid Mechanics" has been the best looking one so far, but with a >£100 price tag with only Chapter 1 (=30 pages) useful to me, I could do with finding an equally robust...
  12. R

    Understanding the Principle of Birefringence: Δn Explained

    I finally understand the principle of being able to imagine light as having 2 perpendicular components of electric field, to use an analogy from an earlier thread, its just as a weight on a slope may be considered to have 2 componants. Anyway, for this example nx = ny = no and nz = ne. Light is...
  13. R

    Birefringence and Automotive Window Tinting

    Hi all, I'm new to the forums (in posting at least!). I recently graduated with a B.S. in Applied Physics, and have viewed topics here on and off throughout my educational experience. I definitely love this forum! I've been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to buy a new car, and recently...
  14. U

    How Does Birefringence Influence Optical Devices?

    Homework Statement Part (a): Explain how birefringence adds phase difference. Part(b): Explain how the concept of birefringence is used in a beam splitter. Part (c): What's the orientation and retardance of retarder-1 to make both beams have same intensity? Part (d): What's the...
  15. O

    Is birefringence different in plastics, glass and calcite?

    1) Is birefringence different in plastics, tempered glass and calcite crystal? In plastics I see rainbow color bands (when looking through polaroid glasses), in tempered glass a colorless checkerboard pattern (again viewed through polaroid glasses), and in calcite double images. These...
  16. V

    Birefringence calculations and questions

    Hi everyone! I'm trying to do the classic calculation of the coefficients of transmission and reflection at a surface, but for a uniaxial crystal. I'm doing the simplest case, in which the optical axis is normal to the reflecting surface. Here is a simple diagram of what I'm trying to do...
  17. S

    Direction of extraordinary and ordinary waves (birefringence).

    Homework Statement A linearly polarized wave traveling in the y-direction falls on to a plate of uniaxial material of thickness d, and the optical axis is in the z-direction. Which ones of the components E_x or E_z become the ordinary and extraordinary waves inside the plate? Homework...
  18. F

    Why birefringence effect polarizes light?

    I am trying to understand birefringence effect. I have read many different sources online, but what I do not understand is why refracted light rays come out polarized (from a calcite crystal for example). What actually polarize light? Can somebody help? Thank you a lot!
  19. K

    Can Linear Birefringence create elliptically polarized waves?

    I am trying to understand all the possibilities that a linear birefringent material can provide. The resources I am finding on the internet seems to only claim that each component of the wave (the parallel and perpendicular components) will propagate at different speeds. Is this enough to say...
  20. P

    The title could be: How Do Colors Appear on a Birefringence Chart?

    I'm not a physics whiz, so please be patient with me! I understand that when polarized light passes through an anisotropic sample, it bifurcates into the o-ray and the e-eay. The two rays emerge out of phase to each other and when they hit the polarizer, they recombine. Due to the fact that...
  21. E

    Inorganic crystal structure theory for linear birefringence

    There is a crystal structure relationship for circular birefringence which can tell you if a crystal structure will have circular birefringence and its handedness (left,right) (e.g. "On the origin of optical activity in crystal structures" J. Appl. Cryst. 1986. 19, 108-122, A. M. Glazer and K...
  22. B

    Difference in polarization with birefringence substance and polarization filter

    Hi there. Sorry for my poor English first. I have been reading chapter about polarization in Feynman Lectures on Physics. There is a experiment about polarization using 2 polaroids and birefringence cellophane located between two polaroids. optic axis of two polaroids are 0 and 90 in...
  23. C

    Birefringence Questions | Help with Solutions

    Hi everyone, I have some questions about birefringence. I have searched in vain on the Internet and in a few books (it's tough to find books on birefringence). Usually determining how rays propagate after birefringence is simple because the light is incident normally and the ne of the...