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Stokes parameters and polarization contrasts in Young’s interference experiment

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Abstract

We derive a spectral interference law that governs the behavior of the four Stokes parameters in Young’s two-pinhole experiment with a random electromagnetic beam. In addition to the visibility of intensity fringes, we introduce three new contrast parameters that describe the interference-induced changes in the field’s state of partial polarization. The polarization modulation depends on the electric field correlations at the pinholes and is closely related to the two-point Stokes parameters. The results are expected to be particularly useful in polarization interferometry and electromagnetic coherence theory. The formalism is demonstrated with specific examples.

© 2006 Optical Society of America

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