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The Photonics Spotlight

Unpolarized Single-Frequency Output

Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta

Ref.: encyclopedia articles on polarization of laser emission, single-frequency lasers

Did you ever encounter a single-frequency laser with truly unpolarized output? This question is a lot more tricky than it may seem. At least for strictly monochromatic emission, some defined polarization state is actually unavoidable, i.e., unpolarized emission is impossible. For any monochromatic laser beam propagation in z direction, the complex field amplitude Ex and Ey for oscillation in the two transverse directions must have some constant values, and depending on their magnitudes and phases, the polarization is either linear in some direction, or elliptical, or circular. Unpolarized emission is a necessarily stochastic phenomenon, which implies an optical spectrum which cannot be described with a delta function.

This article is a posting of the Photonics Spotlight, authored by Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta. You may link to this page, because its location is permanent. See also the Encyclopedia of Laser Physics and Technology.

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