We analyze the method of phase subtraction in two identical optical structures to build an achromatic phase retarder. The two structures are made of right-angle prisms and are aligned orthogonal to each other. They are also made of materials of different refractive indices so that dispersion compensation can be taken advantage of. Essentially the phase retardation between the s and p waves in the first structure is subtracted from the phase retardation in the second structure. This can be done by reversing the roles of the s and p waves. By choosing the materials of the prisms properly, the phase retardation can be made to be constant over a broad spectral range. Indeed, calculations made with commercial optical glasses show that phase errors in the visible and near-infrared regions can be rather small. For example, for a 90° phase retarder (quarter-wave plate), a phase error of 0.35° can be obtained from 0.35 to 0.81 μm and from 0.59 to 1.26 μm.
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