We present an improved, high-resolution method for the measurement of phase retardation induced by the material birefringence of optical fibers. Such a method can be used to retrieve information about the spatial distribution of refractive index anisotropy in the fiber by comparing the accumulated phase of a polarization component oriented along the fiber transmission axis and another located in the transverse plane. The method is based on the nonlinear regression of a phase modulated signal of known modulation amplitude altered by the sample. Experimental results obtained with our method for a standard telecommunications fiber (the Corning SMF-28) as well as photosensitive fibers (Fibercore PS1250 and PS1500) are presented with a noise-limited phase resolution below radians and a spatial resolution below . An analysis of the limitation of such measurement methods is also presented including diffraction by the fibers.
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