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Electro-optic Effect

Definition: the phenomenon that the refractive index of a material can be modified with an electric field

Alternative term: Pockels effect

German: elektrooptischer Effekt

Categories: nonlinear optics, physical foundations

How to cite the article; suggest additional literature

The electro-optic effect (or electrooptic effect) is the modification of the refractive index of a medium, caused by an electric field. (Some authors more generally consider electro-optic effects such that any optical properties may be affected by an electric field.) Only non-centrosymmetric materials (mostly nonlinear crystal materials) exhibit the linear electro-optic effect, also called the Pockels effect, where the refractive index change is proportional to the electric field strength (see the article on Pockels effect for more details). Materials exhibiting the Pockels effect are called electro-optic materials.

All centrosymmetric media exhibit only the Kerr electro-optic effect, where the refractive index change is proportional to the square of the electric field strength, and is typically much weaker than for the linear effect within the range of electric field strength which the material can tolerate.

The linear electro-optic effect is exploited in Pockels cells, which can be part of electro-optic modulators, and for electro-optic sampling.

See also: Pockels cells, electro-optics, electro-optic modulators, electro-optic sampling
and other articles in the categories nonlinear optics, physical foundations

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