In electrodynamics,
linear polarization or
plane polarization of
electromagnetic radiationElectromagnetic radiation is a form of energy that exhibits wavelike behavior as it travels through space...
is a confinement of the
electric fieldIn physics, an electric field surrounds electrically charged particles and timevarying magnetic fields. The electric field depicts the force exerted on other electrically charged objects by the electrically charged particle the field is surrounding...
vector or
magnetic fieldA magnetic field is a mathematical description of the magnetic influence of electric currents and magnetic materials. The magnetic field at any given point is specified by both a direction and a magnitude ; as such it is a vector field.Technically, a magnetic field is a pseudo vector;...
vector to a given plane along the direction of propagation. See polarization for more information.
Historically, the orientation of a polarized electromagnetic wave has been defined in the optical regime by the orientation of the electric vector, and in the
radioRadio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...
regime, by the orientation of the magnetic vector.
The
classicalWhat "classical physics" refers to depends on the context. When discussing special relativity, it refers to the Newtonian physics which preceded relativity, i.e. the branches of physics based on principles developed before the rise of relativity and quantum mechanics...
sinusoidal plane wave solution of the
electromagnetic wave equationThe electromagnetic wave equation is a secondorder partial differential equation that describes the propagation of electromagnetic waves through a medium or in a vacuum...
for the
electricIn physics, an electric field surrounds electrically charged particles and timevarying magnetic fields. The electric field depicts the force exerted on other electrically charged objects by the electrically charged particle the field is surrounding...
and
magneticA magnetic field is a mathematical description of the magnetic influence of electric currents and magnetic materials. The magnetic field at any given point is specified by both a direction and a magnitude ; as such it is a vector field.Technically, a magnetic field is a pseudo vector;...
fields is (cgs units)
for the magnetic field, where k is the
wavenumberIn the physical sciences, the wavenumber is a property of a wave, its spatial frequency, that is proportional to the reciprocal of the wavelength. It is also the magnitude of the wave vector...
,
is the
angular frequencyIn physics, angular frequency ω is a scalar measure of rotation rate. Angular frequency is the magnitude of the vector quantity angular velocity...
of the wave, and
is the
speed of lightThe speed of light in vacuum, usually denoted by c, is a physical constant important in many areas of physics. Its value is 299,792,458 metres per second, a figure that is exact since the length of the metre is defined from this constant and the international standard for time...
.
Here
is the
amplitudeAmplitude is the magnitude of change in the oscillating variable with each oscillation within an oscillating system. For example, sound waves in air are oscillations in atmospheric pressure and their amplitudes are proportional to the change in pressure during one oscillation...
of the field and
is the Jones vector in the xy plane.
The wave is linearly polarized when the phase angles
are equal,
.
This represents a wave polarized at an angle
with respect to the x axis.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Linear polarization'
Start a new discussion about 'Linear polarization'
Answer questions from other users

In electrodynamics,
linear polarization or
plane polarization of
electromagnetic radiationElectromagnetic radiation is a form of energy that exhibits wavelike behavior as it travels through space...
is a confinement of the
electric fieldIn physics, an electric field surrounds electrically charged particles and timevarying magnetic fields. The electric field depicts the force exerted on other electrically charged objects by the electrically charged particle the field is surrounding...
vector or
magnetic fieldA magnetic field is a mathematical description of the magnetic influence of electric currents and magnetic materials. The magnetic field at any given point is specified by both a direction and a magnitude ; as such it is a vector field.Technically, a magnetic field is a pseudo vector;...
vector to a given plane along the direction of propagation. See polarization for more information.
Historically, the orientation of a polarized electromagnetic wave has been defined in the optical regime by the orientation of the electric vector, and in the
radioRadio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...
regime, by the orientation of the magnetic vector.
Mathematical description of linear polarization
The
classicalWhat "classical physics" refers to depends on the context. When discussing special relativity, it refers to the Newtonian physics which preceded relativity, i.e. the branches of physics based on principles developed before the rise of relativity and quantum mechanics...
sinusoidal plane wave solution of the
electromagnetic wave equationThe electromagnetic wave equation is a secondorder partial differential equation that describes the propagation of electromagnetic waves through a medium or in a vacuum...
for the
electricIn physics, an electric field surrounds electrically charged particles and timevarying magnetic fields. The electric field depicts the force exerted on other electrically charged objects by the electrically charged particle the field is surrounding...
and
magneticA magnetic field is a mathematical description of the magnetic influence of electric currents and magnetic materials. The magnetic field at any given point is specified by both a direction and a magnitude ; as such it is a vector field.Technically, a magnetic field is a pseudo vector;...
fields is (cgs units)
for the magnetic field, where k is the
wavenumberIn the physical sciences, the wavenumber is a property of a wave, its spatial frequency, that is proportional to the reciprocal of the wavelength. It is also the magnitude of the wave vector...
,
is the
angular frequencyIn physics, angular frequency ω is a scalar measure of rotation rate. Angular frequency is the magnitude of the vector quantity angular velocity...
of the wave, and
is the
speed of lightThe speed of light in vacuum, usually denoted by c, is a physical constant important in many areas of physics. Its value is 299,792,458 metres per second, a figure that is exact since the length of the metre is defined from this constant and the international standard for time...
.
Here
is the
amplitudeAmplitude is the magnitude of change in the oscillating variable with each oscillation within an oscillating system. For example, sound waves in air are oscillations in atmospheric pressure and their amplitudes are proportional to the change in pressure during one oscillation...
of the field and
is the Jones vector in the xy plane.
The wave is linearly polarized when the phase angles
are equal,
.
This represents a wave polarized at an angle
with respect to the x axis. In that case the Jones vector can be written
.
The state vectors for linear polarization in x or y are special cases of this state vector.
If unit vectors are defined such that
and
then the polarization state can written in the "xy basis" as
.
External links
See also
 Sinusoidal planewave solutions of the electromagnetic wave equation
Sinusoidal planewave solutions are particular solutions to the electromagnetic wave equation.The general solution of the electromagnetic wave equation in homogeneous, linear, timeindependent media can be written as a linear superposition of planewaves of different frequencies and...
 Polarization
 Circular polarization
In electrodynamics, circular polarization of an electromagnetic wave is a polarization in which the electric field of the passing wave does not change strength but only changes direction in a rotary type manner....
 Elliptical polarization
In electrodynamics, elliptical polarization is the polarization of electromagnetic radiation such that the tip of the electric field vector describes an ellipse in any fixed plane intersecting, and normal to, the direction of propagation...
 Photon polarization
Photon polarization is the quantum mechanical description of the classical polarized sinusoidal plane electromagnetic wave. Individual photons are completely polarized...