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The Fresnel Rhomb

Excerpt from Field Guide to Polarization

The phenomenon of TIR was first used by Fresnel to create circularly polarized light from linearly polarized light. In order to use TIR, Fresnel constructed a glass rhomb.


Using input L+45P light, circularly polarized light can be obtained by creating a phase shift (δ) of 45° at the lower and upper surfaces of the glass rhomb, respectively. The Mueller matrix for two reflections is


where δU,L are the phase shifts at the upper and lower surfaces, respectively. For glass such as BK7 the refractive index is n = 1.5151 at 6328 Å (HeNe). From the equation for δ on the previous page the angle of incidence of I = 55°05' yields a phase shift of δ = 45.0°. Then δU + δL = 90°, so the Mueller matrix for the Fresnel rhomb is


For an input L+45P beam SL+45P = {1, 0, 1, 0} and the Stokes vector of the output beam is then SRCP = {1, 0, 0, 1}.


E. Collett, Field Guide to Polarization, SPIE Press, Bellingham, WA (2005).

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Edward Collett
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