Optics: polarisation alignment

In summary, by using a combination of wave plates in the order \lambda/2 - \lambda/4 - \lambda/2, it is possible to achieve any polarisation. The first wave plate switches the polarisation direction, the second changes linear to circular polarisation and vice versa, and the last one switches it back again. By taking into account the possibility of the wave plates not having their fast axis aligned, it is possible to produce any desired linear polarisation with just two wave plates.
  • #1
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With a combination of wave plates in the order [tex]\lambda[/tex]/2 - [tex]\lambda[/tex]/4 - [tex]\lambda[/tex]/2 it should be possible to achieve any polarisation. But I don't understand why: the first wave plate switches the polarisation direction, the second changes linear to circular polarisation and vice versa, and the last one switches it back again. How does this align the polarisation? :confused:
Thank you for any answers, or hints, or links.
 
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  • #3
Thank you. I calculated the problem now, but the solution is lengthy and I guess it'll be easier to just try it out with the accordant waveplates :rolleyes: :smile:

I figured that I only need two waveplates to produce any desired linear polarisation. A quarter-wave plate will turn elliptical into linear polarisation, which can be aligned into the desired direction by the half-wave plate.
 

Related to Optics: polarisation alignment

1. What is polarisation alignment?

Polarisation alignment is the process of aligning the direction of polarisation of an electromagnetic wave. It involves controlling the orientation of the electric field vector of the wave, which can be either linear or circular.

2. Why is polarisation alignment important?

Polarisation alignment is important because it allows for the manipulation and control of light in various applications. It is used in technologies such as LCD screens, 3D glasses, and polarisers for cameras. It is also essential in optical communication systems to ensure efficient transmission of data.

3. How is polarisation alignment achieved?

Polarisation alignment can be achieved through various methods, such as using polarising filters or waveplates. These devices selectively transmit or modify the polarisation state of light. Another method is by using birefringent materials, which have two different refractive indices for different polarisations, to manipulate the direction of polarisation.

4. What is the difference between linear and circular polarisation?

Linear polarisation refers to the direction of the electric field vector of light being confined to a single plane. It can be either horizontally or vertically polarised. Circular polarisation, on the other hand, refers to the electric field vector rotating in a circular motion. It can be either clockwise or counterclockwise.

5. How is polarisation alignment used in microscopy?

In microscopy, polarisation alignment is used to enhance the contrast and visibility of certain structures in a sample. By controlling the polarisation of the light, specific components of the sample can be highlighted, allowing for a clearer image. This technique is commonly used in biological and materials science research.

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