Parametric characterization of non-uniformly polarized beams

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A new overall parameter is defined, namely, the generalized degree of polarization, which involves the spatial distribution of the polarization of a light beam. This parameter is introduced on the basis of a general treatment recently proposed [Optics Leb. 22 (1997) 206] to characterize partially polarized fields, which extends the Stokes-Mueller formalism to describe the intensity moments of a quasimonochromatic beam. The main properties and the physical meaning of this parameter with regard to the spatial inhomogeneities of the polarization state are analysed, and a general measurement procedure is proposed.
©1998 Elsevier Science B.V. The research work leading to this paper has been supported by the Comisión Interministerial de Ciencia y Tecnología of Spain, under project TAP96-2333-E, within the framework of EU-1269 project. We also thank an anonymous referee for attaching a copy of the relevant pages of Ref. w15x, for the authors.
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