Abstract

A general theory relating continuous monotonic refractive-index inhomogeneities to the interference pattern produced by a Mach-Zehnder interferometer is specialized to a one-dimensional refractive-index distribution using power-series expansions for the refractive index and ray traces. The coefficients of the series are related to derivatives of the observed interference pattern. Practical interferogram-evaluation equations result that apply for any selected object plane and incorporate necessary corrections. Errors of the evaluation equations are discussed. The effect of misalignment, or lateral extension, of the light source is demonstrated. The phenomenon of, and conditions for, apparent ray-crossing are discussed. The effects of test-section windows are shown to be negligible. Other effects arising in practical applications are mentioned.

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