The College of Optical Sciences’ Polarization Laboratory at the University of Arizona is a team of researchers interested in understanding polarization phenomena and associated behaviors in optical systems and components.

Polarization critical optical systems require careful attention to a myriad of polarization issues in order to perform accurately and be manufactured with high yield. Such systems include liquid crystal displays and projection systems, interferometers, laser radar systems, remote sensing, fiber optic communications, fluorescence microscopy, biomedical tests, and semiconductor manufacture and test equipment. Engineering such polarization critical systems requires the interfacing of many optics disciplines including thin films, anisotropic materials, polarization elements, optical design, polarization ray tracing, polarimetry, polarization in sources and detectors, polarization of the natural environment, and more!


Polarization effects are complex: retardance has three degrees of freedom, diattenuation has three, and depolarization has nine. In contrast optical design has one degree of freedom, the optical path length or wavefront aberration function. Due to polarization’s complexity, polarizing components and systems are rarely completely specified.

Expertise is required to communicate polarization performance and specifications between interdisciplinary groups teamed on complex optical systems. Our students are well prepared for difficult projects in polarization engineering.