Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Can Linear Birefringence create elliptically polarized waves?

  1. Aug 2, 2011 #1
    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 that if I have normal incidence for a given linearly birefringent material, I can obtain circularly or elliptically polarized light?

    Thanks in advance
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 2, 2011 #2

    Andy Resnick

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    If I understand you, then yes. A linearly birefringent material (say, a uniaxial crystal) can be used to convert linearly polarized light into circular (1/4-wave plate) or elliptical (or linear) simply by rotating the fast axis of the material with respect to the incident polarization.
  4. Aug 2, 2011 #3
    I see. So when someone says Shape Birefringence, do they refer to what you are talking about. A form of Birefringence due to the crystal structure?
  5. Aug 2, 2011 #4
    Yes that's correct.

    It would be a lot easier consider the same setup with a nematic liquid crystal ; when an electric field is applied their geometrical structure changes and interacting light is exposed to the change accordingly. Applying precise electric fields to liquid crystal is much easier than rotating a solid crystal thus I think you heard about this.
  6. Aug 2, 2011 #5
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook