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Narrow band polarization encoder

Image Number 15 for United States Patent #6611342.

An interferometer optical element is provided with a birefringent material in the light path. Specifically, a Fabry-Perot optical resonance cavity is operated in a fully reflective mode and is provided with a birefringent material in a cavity between two reflectors. A first mirror, for example of about 90% reflectance and a second mirror, for example of 99% reflectance, define the cavity. The polarization effect is applied exclusively to the resonant wavelength defined by the spacing of the two reflectors. The input beam is fully reflected back in the direction of incidence. However the resonant wavelength component therein is polarized and can be discriminated, e.g., selectively diverted by a polarization beam splitter. A number of application are disclosed, including using a birefringent liquid crystal material and tuning the apparent optical path length by electrically adjusting the birefringence. The device also is cascadable for selectively operating on certain wavelengths and diversely polarizing some wavelengths and not others. In a preferred embodiment, the input beam is applied at 45 degrees to the fast axis of oriented birefringent nematic liquid crystal, which can optionally involve separately altering and recombining diverse polarization components of the input beam.

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