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 0.5-2 μm visible and near-IR spectral range. A ZnS-coated right-angle Si prism achieves QWR with an error of <±2.5° in the 9-11 μm (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 (4≤λ≤12.5 μm) 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 AmericaPDF Article