Characterization of polarization fluctuations in random electromagnetic beams

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Two stationary, partially polarized electromagnetic beams with equal degrees of polarization may exhibit completely different time evolutions of the instantaneous polarization state. In this work, we derive a statistical quantity that describes the rate at which the field intensity in the beam, on average, is redistributed between the beam's polarization state at any time and the state orthogonal to it. This method allows one to treat the dynamical properties of the polarization fluctuations both theoretically and experimentally. We demonstrate the method by applying it to important special cases, such as fields obeying Gaussian statistics, black-body radiation pencils and depolarized laser beams. We also prove that a geometric approach introduced earlier is closely connected with the present model.
Original languageEnglish
Article number073004
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalNew Journal of Physics
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • partial polarization
  • random electromagnetic fields

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