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Unformatted text preview: Discussion Question 14C P212, Week 14 Quarter Wave Plates A quarter wave plate ( QWP ) is an example of a birefringent device: its refractive index n depends on the polarization of incoming light. If light is polarized along the fast axis, it will experience a smaller refractive index but if it is polarized along the slow axis, the refractive index it sees will be larger . Recall that the index of refraction describes the degree to which light slows down in a material: v = c / n . So here is how a birefringent element works: if linearly polarized light passes through the element, the component of the light polarized along the slow axis will be slowed down more that the component along the fast axis. Thus, when the light emerges from the element, its two components will be out of phase with each other. A QWP is a special case of such a device, where the phase shift between the fast and slow components is exactly 90 . Further, if the incoming light is polarized at 45 to both the fast and slow axes (so that the fast and slow components are of equal amplitude), the outgoing light will be circularly polarized ....
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