Abstract

We consider partial spatial coherence and partial polarization of purely evanescent optical fields generated in total internal reflection at an interface of two dielectric (lossless) media. Making use of the electromagnetic degree of coherence, we show that, in such fields, the coherence length can be notably shorter than the light’s vacuum wavelength, especially at a high-index-contrast interface. Physical explanation for this behavior, analogous to the generation of incoherent light in a multimode laser, is provided. We also analyze the degree of polarization by using a recent three-dimensional formulation and show that the field may be partially polarized at a subwavelength distance from the surface even though it is fully polarized farther away. The degree of polarization can assume values unattainable by beamlike fields, indicating that electromagnetic evanescent waves generally are genuine three-dimensional fields. The results can find applications in near-field optics and nanophotonics.

© 2011 Optical Society of America

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