Editors' ChoiceOptics

A time to polarize the unpolarized

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Science  10 Mar 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6329, pp. 1036-1037
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6329.1036-g

Wavelength, intensity, and polarization are several parameters that define a light field. Light from most natural and many artificial light sources is unpolarized. However, an instantaneous snapshot of a propagating light field shows that it may be completely polarized. Shevchenko et al. propose and demonstrate experimentally that there is a finite window of time for that snapshot in which the unpolarized light is polarized. Using a Michelson interferometer with polarization- sensitive components combined with two-photon absorption detectors, they show for two different unpolarized light sources that the polarization time window varies from 10 to 100 fs. The effect of a finite polarization time could be exploited in a number of applications such as communication and sensing.

Optica 4, 64 (2017).

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