Abstract

A geometric phase analysis is used to show that a minimum of four reflections is required to rotate the linear polarization of a laser beam by an angle 0 < ϕ < π, subject to the constraint that the final beam path be collinear with the incident one. Elementary spherical geometry is used to compute a series of beam propagation vectors that give an arbitrary ϕ rotation and to determine the necessary mirror orientations. The method is applied to the case of ϕ = π/2, which is useful for the design of a device needed in our laboratory. The properties of this device and the need for it are discussed in the light of operating experience with half-wave retardation plates used for polarization rotation of CO2 laser beams.

© 1996 Optical Society of America

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