Studying the coherence of an optical field is typically compartmentalized with respect to its different physical degrees of freedom (DoFs)—spatial, temporal, and polarization. Although this traditional approach succeeds when the DoFs are uncoupled, it fails at capturing key features of the field’s coherence if the DOFs are indeed correlated—a situation that arises often. By viewing coherence as a “resource” that can be shared among the DoFs, it becomes possible to convert the entropy associated with the fluctuations in one DoF to another DoF that is initially fluctuation-free. Here, we verify experimentally that coherence can indeed be reversibly exchanged—without loss of energy—between polarization and the spatial DoF of a partially coherent field. Starting from a linearly polarized spatially incoherent field—one that produces no spatial interference fringes—we obtain a spatially coherent field that is unpolarized. By reallocating the entropy to polarization, the field becomes invariant with regard to the action of a polarization scrambler, thus suggesting a strategy for avoiding the deleterious effects of a randomizing system on a DoF of the optical field.
- Coherence and statistical optics
- Physical optics
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics