Rotatable retarder fixed polarizer (RRFP) Stokes polarimeters are most commonly used to measure the state of polarization (SOP) of an electromagnetic (EM) wave. Most of commercialized RRFP Stokes polarimeters realize the SOP measurements by rotating a 90° retarder to uniformly spaced angles over 360° and performing a discrete Fourier transform of data. In this paper, we address the noise properties of such uniformly-rotating RRFP Stokes polarimeters employing a retarder with an arbitrary retardance. The covariance matrices on the measurement noises of four Stokes parameters are derived for Gaussian noise and Poisson noise, respectively. Based on these covariance matrices, it can be concluded that 1) the measurement noises of Stokes parameters seriously depend on the retardance of the retarder in use. 2) for Gaussian noise dominated RRFP Stokes polarimeters, the retardance 130.48° leads to the minimum overall measurement noises when the sum of the measurement noises of four Stokes parameters (viz., the trace of the covariance matrix) is used as the criterion. The retardance in the range from 126.06° to 134.72° can have a nearly-minimum measurement noise which is only 1% larger than the minimum. On the other hand, the retardance 126.87° results in the equalized noises of the last three Stokes parameters. 3) for Poisson noise dominated RRFP Stokes polarimeters, the covariance matrix is also a fuction of the SOP of the incident EM wave. Even so, the retardance in the range from 126.06° to 134.72° can also result in nearly-minimum measurement noise for Poisson noise. 4) in the case of Poisson noise, uniformly spaced angles over 360° have special covariance matrices that depend on the initial angle (the first angle in use). Finally, simulations are performed to verify these theoretical findings.
©2013 Optical Society of America
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