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Physics 318-L Laboratory Report

Polarization Laboratory No.9

Written by: Eric Krage Lab Partners: Sarah McMahon, Haaken Phelps, Alan Halstrom Instructor: Dr. McTaggart

Lab Section 01 Date Performed: 4/11/12

Abstract: Polarization was discovered by tienne-Louis Malus and using his laws he was able to measure it polarization. Using two polarizers and one as an analyzer we solved for the polarization angle of 97 degrees compared to the theoretical 90 degrees it had significant error due to the ability to accurately measure angles and imperfect polarizers. Apparatus Microsoft Excel graphing utility Uniphase Laser Model No.1507 Ser. No. 191907 (4) Cenco Lab Jack Pat No. 2902349 (5) Lab stands (1) Polarizers Ser. No. 37643, 644 (2) Fluke 27/FM multimeter (6) Oriel 71920 Photo Diode used for intensity measurement (3)
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Figure 1: View of whole set-up


Polarization experiments show that light waves travel as a transverse wave. The study of light through interference and diffraction patterns proves that light travels as a wave. What the interference and diffraction patterns fail to tell is if the light travels as a transvers or longitudinal wave. We now know that light consists of transverse electromagnetic waves that travel at the speed of light c in a vacuum. These electric field vibrations propagate transversely which is perpendicular to the magnetic field. Unpolarized light, vibrations occur in all directions in the perpendicular plane. When the light travels through a polarizer it produces a plane-polarized light that restricts the electric field vibrations to occur in one direction which is perpendicular to the direction of the propagation of light. This restriction to the plane is referred to as the plane of polarization. These characteristics of polarization can be verified by the use of a second polarizer called an analyzer. tienne-Louis Malus predicted the light intensity as it passed though the polarizers and analyzers when set at different angles with respect to one another referred to as the Law of Malus. Malus attempted to identify the relationship between the polarizing angle of reflection that he had observed, and the index of refraction of the respective reflecting material. Malus correctly identified this relationship for water though he was unable to do so for glass due to the low quality of materials available at the time. Technology soon allowed the advent of high quality of glass and Sir David Brewster derived an equation that used the angle of incidence at which light with a particular polarization is perfectly transmitted through a transparent dielectric surface with no reflection. When unpolarized light interacts at this angle the light is then reflected from the surface it becomes perfectly polarized this angle is known as Brewsters angle.

Figure 2: tienne-Louis Malus (Left) and Sir David Brewster (Right)


Polarization was accomplished using the figure from Figure 1. The laser was attached to a lab jack using Velcro to keep it in place during testing. The polarizers were attached to the stands and set on a level plane using the laser as a guide. Once the polarizers were aligned the laser was shot through the center of the two polarizers when they were fixed each at 180 degrees. The laser was also in line with the photo detector as shown in Figure 1 this gave us readings in volts. The photometer is a device that is reading off voltage with respect to the intensity of the incident light. Polarizing the light was accomplished by the first polarizer. The second polarizer (or analyzer) was used to measure at what angle the light was polarized. To view what angle the light was polarized it is comparable to the intensity of the light incident upon the detector. As the angle of the analyzer was opposite that of the polarizer no light should be seen beyond the analyzer; this can be seen when varying the angle of the analyzer from 0 to 180.

Data The Law of Malus as discussed in the introduction allows the prediction of light intensity as it passes through polarizers and analyzers set at different angles with respect to one another Equation 1.

Where Io is the incident intensity and is the angle between the transmission axis of the first polarizer and the second polarizer or analyzer In Figure 3. the data from Table 1.(included as an appendix) was plotted that plots light intensity vs. angle (). Using the Law of Malus the data was fit to a cos^2 fucntion.

Figure 3: Law of Malus Data Fit In Figure 3 you can see that the data fit to the Law of Malus which does not prove to be a good fit. The error that occurred is due to the lack of data taken in order to be able to reject the bad data. The polarizing lenses also contributed to error by having the lens slipped and not perfectly aligned; while at the same time did not have enough markings to step down in small enough increments on the analyzer. Conclusion We observed that the polarizers polarize the light in one plane and using the analyzer we can completely cancel out at about 97 degrees which was not able to be measured by the analyzer exactly. This was contributed to the light being polarized at an unprecise angle. Overall this experiment could be improved by designing a mirror on something that could measure the angle off of the base as well have a better measuring device on a mobile stage. References Optics Eugene Hecht - Addison-Wesley (2002)