Coherence, Interferometry, Optics, Polarimetry, Polarized light scattering


Polarimetry is one of the principal means of investigating the interaction of light with matter. Theoretical models and experimental techniques are presented in this dissertation for polarimetric characterization of random electromagnetic beams and of signatures of random media in different scattering regimes and configurations. The degree of polarization rather than the full description of the state of polarization is of interest in multiple scattering and free space propagation where the statistical nature and not the deterministic component of light bears the relevant information. A new interferometric technique for determining the degree of polarization by measuring the intensity fluctuations in a Mach-Zehnder interferometric setup is developed. For this type of investigations, one also needs a light source with a controllable degree of polarization. Therefore, also based on a Mach-Zehnder interferometer, we proposed a new method for generating complex random electromagnetic beams. As a direct application of the cross-spectral density matrix formalism, it is shown that the spectral and the polarimetric characteristics of light can be controlled by adjusting the correlations between parallel components of polarization propagating through the two arms of the interferometer. When optical beams are superposed in the previous applications it is desirable to understand how their coherence and polarimetric characteristics are combined. A generalization of the interference laws of Fresnel and Arago is introduced and as a direct application, a new imaging polarimeter based on a modified Sagnac interferometer is demonstrated. The system allows full polarimetric description of complex random electromagnetic beams. In applications such as active illumination sensing or imaging through turbid media, one can control the orientation of the incident state of polarization such that, in a given coordinate system, the intensities are equal along orthogonal directions. In this situation, our novel interferometric technique has a significant advantage over standard Stokes imaging polarimetry: one needs only one image to obtain both the degree of polarization and the retardance, as opposed to at least three required in classical Stokes polarimetry. The measurement of the state of polarization is required for analyzing the polarization transfer through systems that alter it. Two innovative Mueller matrix measurement techniques are developed for characterizing scattering media, either in quasi real-time, or by detection of low level signals. As a practical aspect of Mueller polarimetry, a procedure for selecting the input Stokes vectors is proposed. The polarimetric signatures of different particulate systems are related to their structural properties and to the size distribution, shape, orientation, birefringent or dichroic properties of the particles. Various scattering regimes and different geometries are discussed for applications relevant to the biomedical field, material science, and remote sensing. The analysis is intended to elucidate practical aspects of single and multiple scattering on polydisperse systems that were not investigated before. It seems to be generally accepted that depolarization effects can only be associated to multiple scattering. It is demonstrated in this dissertation that depolarization can also be regarded as an indication of polydispersity in single scattering. In order to quantify the polarizing behavior of partially oriented cylinders, the polarization transfer for systems consisting of individual layers of partially aligned fibers with different degrees of alignment and packing fractions is also analyzed in this dissertation. It is demonstrated that a certain degree of alignment has the effect of a partial polarizer and that the efficiency of this polarizer depends on the degree of alignment and on the packing fraction of the system. In specific applications such as long range target identification, it is important to know what type of polarization is better preserved during propagation. The experimental results demonstrate that for spherical particles smaller than the wavelength of light, linear polarization is better preserved than circular polarization when light propagates through turbulent media. For large particles, the situation is reversed; circular polarization is better preserved. It is also demonstrated here that this is not necessarily true for polyhedral or cylindrical particles, which behave differently. Optical activity manifests as either circular birefringence or circular dichroism. In this dissertation, a study is presented where both the effect of optical activity and that of multiple scattering are considered. This situation is relevant for medical applications and remote sensing of biological material. It is demonstrated here that the output state of polarization strongly depends on the optical density of the scattering medium, the optical rotatory power and the amount of circular dichroism associated to the scattering medium. This study shows that in the circular birefringence case, scattering and optical activity work together in depolarizing light, while in the dichroic case the two effects compete with each other and the result is a preservation of the degree of polarization. To characterize highly diffusive media, a very simple model is developed, in which the scattering is analyzed using the Mueller matrix formalism in terms of surface and volume contributions.


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Graduation Date





Dogariu, Aristide


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Optics and Photonics


Optics and Photonics

Degree Program









Release Date

January 2007

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Optics; Optics -- Dissertations, Academic