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A polarizer is a device that converts a beam of electromagnetic waves (light) of undefined or mixed polarization into a beam with well-defined polarization. The common types of polarizers are linear polarizers and circular polarizers. Polarizers are used in many optical techniques and instruments, and polarizing filters find applications in photography and liquid crystal display technology.

Linear polarizers

Linear polarizers can be divided into two general categories: absorptive polarizers, where the unwanted polarization states are absorbed by the device, and beam-splitting polarizers, where the unpolarized beam is split into two beams with opposite polarization states.

Absorptive polarizers

The simplest linear polarizer in concept is the wire-grid polarizer, which consists of a regular array of fine parallel metallic wires, placed in a plane perpendicular to the incident beam. Electromagnetic waves which have a component of their electric fields aligned parallel to the wires induce the movement of electrons along the length of the wires. Since the electrons are free to move, the polarizer behaves in a similar manner as the surface of a metal when reflecting light; some energy is lost due to Joule heating in the wires, and the rest of the wave is reflected backwards along the incident beam.

For waves with electric fields perpendicular to the wires, the electrons cannot move very far across the width of each wire; therefore, little energy is lost or reflected, and...
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