Abstract

This paper reviews the current status of instruments for measuring the full 4×1 Stokes vector S, which describes the state of polarization (SOP) of totally or partially polarized light, and the 4×4 Mueller matrix M, which determines how the SOP is transformed as light interacts with a material sample or an optical element or system. The principle of operation of each instrument is briefly explained by using the Stokes–Mueller calculus. The development of fast, automated, imaging, and spectroscopic instruments over the last 50 years has greatly expanded the range of applications of optical polarimetry and ellipsometry in almost every branch of science and technology. Current challenges and future directions of this important branch of optics are also discussed.

© 2016 Optical Society of America

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