Azzam’s differential matrix formalism [J. Opt. Soc. Am. 68, 1756 (1978)], originally developed for longitudinally inhomogeneous anisotropic nondepolarizing media, is extended to include depolarizing media. The generalization is physically interpreted in terms of means and uncertainties of the elementary optical properties of the medium, as well as of three anisotropy absorption parameters introduced to describe the depolarization. The formalism results in a particularly simple mathematical procedure for the retrieval of the elementary properties of a generally depolarizing anisotropic medium, assumed to be globally homogeneous, from its experimental Mueller matrix. The approach is illustrated on literature data and the conditions of its validity are identified and discussed.
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