The nature of changes in the interference pattern caused by the presence of polarization-changing elements in one or both beams of an interferometer, in particular those caused by an effective optical activity due to passage of a polarized beam through a coiled optical fiber, are clarified. It is pointed out that, for an incident state that is not circularly polarized so that the two interfering beams go to different polarization states, there is an observable nonzero Pancharatnam phase shift between them that depends on the incident polarization state and on the solid angle subtended by the track of the vector at the center of the sphere of vectors. The behavior of this phase shift is singular when the two interfering states are nearly orthogonal. It is shown that, for zero path difference between the two beams, the amplitude of intensity modulation as a function of optical activity is independent of the incident polarization state.
© 2007 Optical Society of America
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