## Abstract

All 16 elements of the Mueller matrix of an optical system (sample) can be encoded onto, hence can be retrieved from, a single detected signal using a class of photopolarimeters with modulated polarizing and analyzing optics. The general theory of operation of such polarimeters is presented. We also propose a specific new photopolarimeter whose polarizing and analyzing optics are modulated by synchronously rotating two quarter-wave retarders at angular speeds *ω* and 5*ω*. When the light flux leaving such polarimeter is linearly detected, a periodic signal
$\mathcal{J}={a}_{0}+{\sum}_{n=1}^{12}({a}_{n}\hspace{0.17em}\text{cos}\hspace{0.17em}n{\omega}_{f}t+{b}_{n}\hspace{0.17em}\text{sin}\hspace{0.17em}n{\omega}_{f}t)$ is generated, with fundamental frequency *ω** _{f}* = 2

*ω*. From the Fourier amplitudes

*a*

_{0},

*a*

*,*

_{n}*b*

*, to be measured by performing a discrete Fourier transform (DFT) of the signal*

_{n}*ℐ*, the 16 elements of the Mueller matrix are simply determined.

© 1978 Optical Society of America

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