Abstract

A measure of the degree of polarization for the three-dimensional polarization matrix (coherence matrix) of an electromagnetic field is proposed, based on Rayleigh scattering. The degree of polarization at a point is defined as an average, over all scattering directions, of an imagined dipole scattering of the three-dimensional state of polarization. This gives a well-defined purity measure, which, unlike other proposed measures of the three-dimensional degree of polarization, is not a unitary invariant of the matrix. This is demonstrated and discussed for several examples, including a partially polarized transverse beam.

© 2007 Optical Society of America

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