In electrodynamics, linear polarization or plane polarization of electromagnetic radiation is a confinement of the electric field vector or magnetic field vector to a given plane along the direction of propagation. See polarization and plane of polarization for more information.
The orientation of a linearly polarized electromagnetic wave is defined by the direction of the electric field vector. For example, if the electric field vector is vertical (alternately up and down as the wave travels) the radiation is said to be vertically polarized.
Mathematical description of linear polarization
for the magnetic field, where k is the wavenumber,
Here is the amplitude of the field and
is the Jones vector in the x-y 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
then the polarization state can be written in the "x-y basis" as
- Jackson, John D. (1998). Classical Electrodynamics (3rd ed.). Wiley. ISBN 0-471-30932-X.
- Animation of Linear Polarization (on YouTube)
- Comparison of Linear Polarization with Circular and Elliptical Polarizations (YouTube Animation)