We introduce the concept of degree of polarization for electromagnetic near fields. The approach is based on the generalized Stokes parameters that appear as expansion coefficients of the 3×3 coherence matrix in terms of the Gell-Mann matrices. The formalism is applied to optical near fields of thermally fluctuating half-space sources with particular interest in fields that are strongly polarized owing to resonant surface plasmons or phonons. This novel method is particularly useful when assessing the full vectorial characteristics of random evanescent fields, e.g., for near-field spectroscopy and polarization microscopy.
- degree of polarization
- optical near fields