Calibration of photoelastic modulator based dichrometers: Maintaining constant phase across the spectrum

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Photoelastic modulators can alter the polarization state of a beam of ultraviolet, visible or infrared photons by means of periodic stress-induced differences in the refractive index of a transparent material that forms the optical element of the device and is isotropic in the absence of stress. They have found widespread application in instruments that characterize or alter the polarization state of a beam in fields as diverse as astronomy, structural biology, materials science and ultraviolet lithography for the manufacture of nano-scale integrated circuits. Measurement of circular dichroism, the differential absorption of left- and right circularly polarized light, and of strain-induced birefringence of optical components are major applications. Instruments using synchrotron radiation and photoelastic modulators with CaF2 optical elements have extended circular dichroism measurements down to wavelengths of about 130 nm in the vacuum ultraviolet. Maintaining a constant phase shift between two orthogonal polarization states across a spectrum requires that the amplitude of the modulated stress be changed as a function of wavelength. For commercially available photoelastic modulators, the voltage that controls the amplitude of modulation required to produce a specified phase shift, which is a surrogate for the stress modulation amplitude, has been shown to be an approximately linear function of wavelength in the spectral region where the optical element is transparent. But, extrapolations of such straight lines cross zero voltage at a non-zero wavelength, not at zero-wavelength. For modulators with calcium fluoride and fused silica optical elements, the zero-crossing wavelength is always in the spectral region where the optical element of the modulator strongly absorbs the incident radiation, and at a wavelength less than the longest-wavelength apparent resonance deduced from experimental values of the refractive index fit to the Sellmeier equation. Using a model that relates the refractive indices of a stressed optical element to the refractive index of its unstressed state, an expression for the modulator control voltage was derived that closely fits the experimental data. This result provides a theoretical rational for the apparently linear constant-phase programming voltage, and thus provides theoretical backing for the calibration procedure frequently used for these modulators. Other factors that can influence the calibration of a photoelastic modulator, including temperature and atmospheric pressure, are discussed briefly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberP07016
JournalJournal of Instrumentation
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 20 2016


  • Instrumentation for synchrotron radiation accelerators
  • Optical detector readout concepts
  • Spectrometers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematical Physics
  • Instrumentation


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