Abstract

The cumulative retardance Δt introduced between the p and the s orthogonal linear polarizations after two successive total internal reflections (TIRs) inside a right-angle prism at complementary angles ϕ and 90°ϕ is calculated as a function of ϕ and prism refractive index n. Quarter-wave retardation (QWR) is obtained on retroreflection with minimum angular sensitivity when n=(2+1)1/2=1.55377 and ϕ=45°. A QWR prism made of N-BAK4 Schott glass (n=1.55377 at λ=1303.5  nm) has good spectral response (<5° retardance error) over the 0.5–2μm visible and near-IR spectral range. A ZnS-coated right-angle Si prism achieves QWR with an error of <±2.5° in the 9–11μm (CO2 laser) IR spectral range. This device functions as a linear-to-circular polarization transformer and can be tuned to exact QWR at any desired wavelength (within a given range) by tilting the prism by a small angle around ϕ=45°. A PbTe right-angle prism introduces near-half-wave retardation (near-HWR) with a 2% error over a broad (4λ12.5μm) IR spectral range. This device also has a wide field of view and its interesting polarization properties are discussed. A compact (aspect ratio of 2), in-line, HWR is described that uses a chevron dual Fresnel rhomb with four TIRs at the same angle ϕ=45°. Finally, a useful algorithm is presented that transforms a three-term Sellmeier dispersion relation of a transparent optical material to an equivalent cubic equation that can be solved for the wavelengths at which the refractive index assumes any desired value.

© 2008 Optical Society of America

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