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Quarter and Half Wave Plates

Posted on Jan 21 2011 by Jamie Quinton and Adam Blanch

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Tags: asell physics, optical physics

Experiment Overview

This experiment involves the use of plane-polarised laser light to investigate the properties of quarter wave and half wave plates. Students measure the angular dependence of the transmitted intensity in order to determine the positions of the transmission axes of a quarter wave plate and further use this information to produce circularly polarised light from the incident linearly polarised radiation. The phase shift of 180 degrees induced by a half wave plate is also investigated in a similar manner. The major learning outcome is expected to be an understanding of the way in which altering the transmission of an electromagnetic wave along one of the axes of wave plate devices can change the polarisation of the propagated light.

It is also notable that the students who undertake the experiments in our second year physics subject do so in a Round-Robin style, and so some students will do this experiment in the middle of semester, while others will do it at the end, and thus may have differing amounts of background knowledge prior to their experience with this experiment.
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