Geometric phase in beating of light waves

Antti Hannonen*, Kimmo Saastamoinen, Lasse-Petteri Leppanen, Matias Koivurova, Andriy Shevchenko, Ari T. Friberg, Tero Setala

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Beating is a simple physical phenomenon known for long in the context of sound waves but remained surprisingly unexplored for light waves. When two monochromatic optical beams of different frequencies and states of polarization interfere, the polarization state of the superposition field exhibits temporal periodic variation-polarization beating. In this work, we reveal a foundational and elegant phase structure underlying such polarization beating. We show that the phase difference over a single beating period decomposes into the Pancharatnam-Berry geometric phase and a dynamical phase of which the former depends exclusively on the intensities and polarization states of the interfering beams whereas the sum of the phases is determined solely by the beam frequencies. Varying the intensity and polarization characteristics of the beams, the relative contributions of the geometric and dynamical phases can be adjusted. The geometric phase inherent in polarization beating is governed by a compact expression containing only the Stokes parameters of the interfering waves and can alternatively be obtained from the individual beam intensities and the amplitude of the intensity beats. We demonstrate both approaches experimentally by using an interferometer with a fast detector and a specific polarimetric arrangement. Polarization beating has a unique character that the geometric and dynamical phases are entangled, i.e. variation in one unavoidably leads to a change in the other. Our work expands geometric phases into a new domain and offers important novel insight into the role of polarization in interference of electromagnetic waves.

Original languageEnglish
Article number083030
Number of pages10
JournalNew Journal of Physics
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • polarization
  • geometric phase
  • Pancharatnam-Berry phase
  • interferometry


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