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  • Krish Jhajj

Polarization of Light

Polarization is described as a phenomenon caused by the wave nature of electromagnetic radiation. Sunlight is an example of an electromagnetic wave. Sunlight travels through a vacuum to reach Earth. Why are they called electromagnetic? They are called electromagnetic because they form as a result of interaction between an electric and magnetic field. Let’s look at 2 types of waves associated with this topic, transverse waves and longitudinal waves. Transverse waves are waves where the particles of the medium move in a direction perpendicular to the direction of the wave. Longitudinal waves are waves in which the particles of the medium move in the same direction as the wave. Light is the result of the interaction of electric and magnetic fields as they travel through space. The light that we get from the sun, lamps or bulbs is unpolarized light. Now let’s talk about polarized light.

Unpolarized light is light that vibrates in various planes. How can we make unpolarized light polarized? The most common method of making unpolarized light polarized is by the use of a polarizer, also called a polarizing filter. Polarized light is light waves that vibrate in a single plane, unlike unpolarized light. The process of making unpolarized light polarized is known as Polarization. Polarized light helps us in various ways. Sunglasses help us to reduce glare. They are made of polarized lenses which make the incoming unpolarized light polarized. Now let’s check out the types of polarized light!


Polarization is of 3 types:

1) Linear Polarization: A light wave that travels in a linear direction. A magnetic field wave accompanies the transverse electric field wave.

2) Circular Polarization: Circular Polarization is a Polarization in which the electric field of the passing wave does not change strength but only changes direction in a rotary manner.

3) Elliptical Polarization: The electric field of light propagates in an elliptical fashion. The phase and amplitude differences between the two linear components are not equal.


How does Polarization work? The widely used method of polarizing light consists of polarization by a polarizing filter. The polarizing filter is composed of a special type of material, the one which can block one of the two planes of vibrations of the electromagnetic wave. In simple words, it acts as a filter that filters out one-half of the vibration when light is transmitted through it (the waves which move in a particular direction pass through it and the other do not). In this way, when light is transmitted through a polarizing filter, it will emerge with one-half the intensity and the vibrations occurring in a single plane, which is the polarized light.


Polarization has wide use in various scientific fields and studies. Polarization techniques are used in chemistry to test the chirality (A molecule or ion is said to be chiral if it cannot be superposed on its mirror image through any combination of rotations, translations, and conformational changes. This geometric property is referred to as chirality) of organic compounds. It is used to study earthquakes in seismology. Polarization is used in infrared spectroscopy. Besides these, it also helps us watch 3D movies by the use of 3D glasses which comprise polaroid filters and give a view of the intended image only. Polarized lenses help in reducing glare.

Polarization has vast applications in our life. It is helpful to us in various ways. Light is a form of energy that is complex to comprehend and does not tend to cease to amaze the world of physics and its laws. Light is an interesting topic, isn’t it? This is all for now folks! Thank you.



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