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Stern-Gerlach experiment with light: separating photons by spin with the method of A. Fresnel

Abstract : In 1822 A. Fresnel described an experiment to separate a beam of light into its right-and left-circular polarization components using chiral interfaces. Fresnel's experiment combined three crystalline quartz prisms of alternating handedness to achieve a visible macroscopic separation between the two circular components. Such quartz polyprisms were rather popular optical components in XIXth century but today remain as very little known optical devices. This work shows the analogy between Fresnel's experiment and Stern-Gerlach experiment from quantum mechanics since both experiments produce selective deflection of particles (photons in case of Fresnel's method) according to their spin angular momentum. We have studied a historical quartz polyprism with eight chiral interfaces producing a large spatial separation of light by spin. We have also constructed a modified Fresnel biprism to produce smaller separations and we have examined the analogy with Stern-Gerlach apparatus for both strong and weak measurements. The polarimetric analysis of a Fresnel polyprism reveals that it acts as a spin angular momentum analyzer.
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Oriol Arteaga, Enric Garcia-Caurel, Razvigor Ossikovski. Stern-Gerlach experiment with light: separating photons by spin with the method of A. Fresnel. Optics Express, Optical Society of America - OSA Publishing, 2019, ⟨10.1364/OE.27.004758⟩. ⟨hal-02437026⟩

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