OPTI 623

Polarized Light and Polarimetry

Polarized Light and Polarimetry (3 units). Polarized light and the Poincare sphere. Polarization in natural scenes and animal vision. Polarization elements: polarizers, retarders, and depolarizers. Jones and Mueller polarization calculus. Polarimetry: measuring the polarization properties of optical elements and materials. Polarization modulators and controllers. Polarization dependent loss and polarization mode dispersion in fiber optics. Advanced polarization issues in optical devices and systems. Prerequisite: OPTI 501.

Meeting Times:

Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:00-3:15 | Room 305


Russell A. Chipman, Professor
College of Optical Sciences, Room 737
The University of Arizona
1630 East University Boulevard, Meinel Building
Tucson,AZ 85721
Phone:520-626-9435 Fax:520-626-4599
Email: russell.chipman@optics.arizona.edu

Office Hours:

Tues. 2:30 – 3:30 pm, Thur. 10:30 – 11:30 am

Course Outline:

  • Polarization overview
    Polarization states. Polarization ellipse. Polarization elements. Diattenuation. Retardance. Depolarization. Partially polarized light.
  • Polarized light in nature.
    Stokes polarimeters. Polarized, partially polarized, and unpolarized light. Black body polarization. Polarization of the sky. Polarization sensitivity in the human eye and animal eyes. Natural and manmade polarization signatures. Polarization of astronomical objects.
  • Electromagnetic description of polarized light.
    Jones vectors. Stokes vectors. Poincare sphere. Coherence. Interference of polarized light.
  • Polarization elements and polarization calculus.
    Polarizers. Retarders. Jones calculus. Mueller calculus. Diattenuation. Polarization dependent loss. Retardance. Birefringence. Dichroism. Optical activity. Polarization mode dispersion. Depolarization. Achromatic. Field of view effects.
  • Polarimetry.
    Light measuring. Sample measuring. Spectropolarimetry. Imaging polarimetry. Ellipsometry. Fresnel equations.
  • Polarization modulators.
    Electro-optic. Magneto-optic. Liquid crystal. Photo elastic. Complete vs. endless polarization control.
  • Polarization aberrations.
    Polarization effects due to coatings and field of view effects in polarization components simulated during optical design. Generalization of the wavefront aberration function to polarization matrix functions. Polarization-dependent point spread functions and optical transfer functions.
  • Polarization in fiber optic systems.
    Fiber polarization components. Isolators. Circulators. Polarization mode dispersion and its compensation.
  • Special topics.
    Structure of Jones and Mueller calculus.


  • Weekly homework assignments due one week later.
  • Please put the problem number and your name on every page.


  • Homework 50%
  • In-class midterm 10%
  • Projects 20%
  • In-class final exam 20%

Required Textbook:

Goldstein, Dennis (2003). Polarized Light (2nd ed.). Dekker. Order Form (PDF)

Instructors Notes:

R. Chipman’s notes (two volumes):

  • Jones and Mueller Calculus, Polarizers, Retarders, and Depolarizers
  • Polarization Ray Tracing
  • Polarization Issues for Fiber Telecommunications

Available at the EES Copy Center, Harvill 137

The notes are under continuous development and contain errors which I am interested in identifying and correcting. Please copy any pages with errors or with suggested improvements and bring to me or my mailbox. All your help is much appreciated by myself and future classes!

Recommended books (not required):

Brosseau, C. (1998). Fundamentals of Polarized Light . Wiley

Kliger, D., Lewis, J., and Randall, C. (1990). Polarized Light in Optics and Spectroscopy.

Azzam, R.M.A. and Bashara, N.M. (1977) Ellipsometry and Polarized Light (1st ed.). North-Holland, Amsterdam
,br> Yeh, P. and Gu, C. (1999). Optics of Liquid Crystal Displays. Wiley & Sons

Polarization Element Kit: A kit with small polarizers and retarders will be distributed next week for performing home demonstrations and homework. Please keep in good shape and return the last week of classes.

Please procure a set of polarizing sunglasses for some of the homework problems.

Software:Mathematica, from Wolfram Research: Mathematica is recommended for performing some of the more numerically intensive problems. Some Mathematica code will be distributed to assist with the class work.
Other programs such as Matlab are most acceptable for doing homework.

Code V was used in previous years for polarization ray tracing homework but will not be used this year.

Academic Integrity

According to the Arizona Code of Academic Integrity, “Integrity is expected of every student in all academic work. The guiding principle of academic integrity is that a student’s submitted work must be the student’s own.” Unless otherwise noted by the instructor, work for all assignments in this course must be conducted independently by each student. Co-authored work of any kind is unacceptable. Misappropriation of exams before or after they are given will be considered academics misconduct.

Misconduct of any kind will be prosecuted and may result in any or all of the following:

  • Reduction of grade
  • Failing grade
  • Referral to the Dean of Students for consideration of additional penalty, i.e., notation on a student’s transcript re: academic integrity violation, etc.

Students with Learning Disabilities

If a student is registered with the Disability Resource Center, he/she must submit appropriate documentation to the instructor if he/she is requesting reasonable accommodations.

The information contained in this syllabus may be subject to change with reasonable advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the instructor.