Mounted Zero-Order Wave Plates
|Retardance Accuracy (Typ.)||<λ/300|
|Beam Deviation||<10 arcsec|
|Surface Quality||20-10 Scratch-Dig|
|Reflectance (per Surface)||<0.25%|
- Air-Spaced Design for High Damage Threshold
- Center Wavelengths from 266 nm to 2020 nm
- Quarter- and Half-Wave Plates Available
- AR Coated on Front and Back Surfaces
- Ø1/2" and Ø1" Wave Plate Options
- OEM Pricing Available Upon Request
Thorlabs' Zero-Order Wave Plates are built by combining two Multi-Order Crystalline Quartz Wave Plates with an optical path length difference of λ/4 or λ/2. By aligning the fast axis of one plate with the slow axis of the other, the net result is a compound retarder whose exact retardance is the difference between each plate's individual retardance. Compound zero-order wave plates offer a lower dependence on temperature and wavelength than multi-order wave plates (see Specs tab for more information). Each wave plate is available as a Ø1/2" optic mounted in a Ø1" unthreaded housing or Ø1" optic mounted in an engraved SM1-threaded (1.035"-40) lens tube (see below for more details).
These zero-order wave plates are constructed by placing an etched stainless steel spacing ring between the two multi-order wave plates and epoxying the three pieces together (the adhesive is only applied outside of the clear aperture of the wave plate). The wave plate is then mounted in an anodized aluminum housing. The housing is engraved with a line indicating the orientation of the fast axis of the wave plate, text stating it is zero order, whether it is a λ/4 or λ/2 wave plate, and the wavelength for which the wave plate was designed.
Retardance and reflection plots are given on the Graphs tab. Please click on the product links for data and graphs showing lens performance versus wavelength.
The wave plates are available in two sizes. The Ø1/2" version wave plates have an OD of 12.7 ± 0.1 mm, a mounted diameter of 25.4 mm (1"), and thickness of 11.7 mm (0.23") . The Ø1" version wave plates have an OD of 25.4 ± 0.1 mm, a mounted diameter of 30.48 mm (1.20"), and a thickness of 12.7 mm (1/2"). The Ø1" models have both an internal and external SM1 thread and can be connected to our SM1-threaded products, including rotation mounts. With a Ø1" housing, the Ø1/2" models are also compatible with our SM1-threaded products but require an SM1 retaining ring for secure mounting.
The wave plates are easily removed from their mounts for use in custom or OEM applications (see the Specs tab for the unmounted wave plate thickness). The unmounted wave plates have a small flat to indicate the polarization axis (see image on the right). For further information on using and selecting a wave plate, please see our Selection Guide tab or contact Technical Support.
Choosing a Wave Plate
Thorlabs offers achromatic, zero-order (both unmounted wave plates and mounted wave plates) and multi-order wave plates (single wavelength and dual wavelength) with either λ/4 or λ/2 phase shift.
While our Achromatic Wave Plates provide phase retardance over a large spectral range, zero-order and multi-order wave plates provide a phase shift that is wavelength dependent. Our achromatic wave plates are available with four AR coatings: 260-410 nm, 400-800 nm, 690-1200 nm, and 1100-2000 nm.
|Round Zero-Order Wave Plate Comparison|
|Sizes||Ø1/2" and Ø1"||Ø1"|
|Retardances Available||1/4 λ and 1/2 λ||1/4 λ|
|Surface Quality||20-10 Scratch-Dig||60-40 Scratch-Dig|
|Coating||V Coat||Broadband AR|
|0.25%||0.5% Average Over Specified Coating Range|
Zero-order waveplates are designed such that the phase shift created is exactly one quarter or one half of a wave. They offer substantially lower dependence on temperature and wavelength than multi-order wave plates. Our Zero-Order Quartz Wave Plates are composed of two wave plates stacked together with the fast axis of one aligned to the slow axis of the other to achieve zero-order performance. Thorlabs' zero-order wave plates are available for a number of discrete wavelengths ranging from 266 nm to 2020 nm. Our Economy Zero-Order Quarter-Wave Plates consist of a thin layer of liquid crystal polymer retarding material sandwiched between two glass plates and are available at discrete wavelengths between 405 nm and 1053 nm. Our quartz zero-order wave plates provide better retardance accuracy and lower reflectance (see table), while our LCP zero-order wave plates produce a smaller decrease in retardance at larger AOIs. In addition, Thorlabs also offers unmounted true Zero-Order Telecom Wave Plates for WDM applications.
Multi-Order Wave Plates are made such that the retardance of a light path will undergo a certain number of full wavelength shifts (also referred to as the order, or m) in addition to the fractional design retardance. Compared to their zero-order counterparts, the retardance of multi-order wave plates is more sensitive to wavelength and temperature changes. Multi-order wave plates are, however, a more economical solution for many applications where increased sensitivities are not an issue. Our multi-order wave plates are available for a number of discrete wavelengths ranging from 266 nm to 1550 nm. Thorlabs also offers Dual-Wavelength Multi-Order Wave Plates designed for use at both 532 nm and 1064 nm.
Operating Principle of Wave Plates
Optical wave plates are constructed from birefringent material that introduces a phase difference between the fast and slow principal axes of the wave plate. The birefringent properties of the material create a difference in refractive index between the two axes. This in return creates a difference in the velocity between the two orthogonal components. The fast principal axis of the wave plate has a lower refractive index resulting in faster wave velocity. The slow axis has a higher refractive index, resulting in slower velocity. The actual phase shift created depends on the properties of the material, the thickness of the wave plate and the wavelength of the signal, and can be described as:
where n1 is the refractive index of the principal plane, n2 is the refractive index of the orthogonal plane, and d is the thickness of the wave plate.
Using a Wave Plate
Wave plates are typically available as λ/4 or λ/2 meaning a phase shift of quarter of a wavelength or half a wavelength (respectively) is created.
As described above, a wave plate has two principal axes: fast and slow. Each axis has a different refractive index and, therefore, a different wave velocity. When a linearly polarized beam is incident on a half-wave plate, and the polarization of this beam does not coincide with one of these axes, the output polarization will be linear and rotated with respect to the polarization of the input beam (see image at left). When applying a circularly polarized beam, a clockwise (counterclockwise) circular polarization will transform into a counter-clockwise (clockwise) circular polarization.
Half-wave (λ/2) plates are typically used as polarization rotators. Mounted on a rotation mount, a λ/2 wave plate can be used as a continuously adjustable polarization rotator, as shown below. Additionally, when used in conjunction with a Polarizing Beamsplitter a λ/2 wave plate can be used as a variable ratio beamsplitter.
The angle between the output polarization and the input polarization will be twice the angle between the input polarization and the wave plate’s axis (see diagram to the left). When the polarization of the input beam is directed along one of the axes of the wave plate, the polarization direction will remain unchanged.
Half-Wave Plate Mounted in RSP1X15
A quarter-wave plate is designed such that the phase shift created between the fast and slow axes is a quarter wavelength (λ/4) or a multiple of λ/4. When applying a linearly polarized beam with the polarization plane aligned at 45° to the wave plate’s principal plane, the output beam will be circularly polarized (see image at left). Likewise, when applying a circularly polarized beam to a λ/4 wave plate the output beam will be linearly polarized. Quarter wave plates are used in Optical Isolators, Optical pumps, and EO modulators.
Laser Induced Damage Threshold Tutorial
This tutorial is a general overview of how laser induced damage thresholds are measured and how the values may be utilized in determining the appropriateness of an optic for a given application. When choosing optics, it is important to understand the Laser Induced Damage Threshold (LIDT) of the optics being used. The LIDT for an optic greatly depends on the type of laser you are using. Continuous wave (CW) lasers typically cause damage from thermal effects (absorption either in the coating or in the substrate). Pulsed lasers, on the other hand, often strip electrons from the lattice structure of an optic before causing thermal damage. Note that the guideline presented here assumes room temperature operation and optics in new condition (i.e., within scratch-dig spec, surface free of contamination, etc.).
Thorlabs' LIDT testing is done in compliance with ISO/DIS11254 specifications. A standard 1-on-1 testing regime is performed to test the damage threshold.
The photograph above is a protected aluminum-coated mirror after LIDT testing. In this particular test, it handled 0.43 J/cm2 (1064 nm, 10 ns pulse, 10 Hz, Ø1.000 mm) before damage.
First, a low-power/energy beam is directed to the optic under test. The optic is exposed in 10 locations to this laser beam for a set duration of time (CW) or number of pulses (prf specified). After exposure, the optic is examined by a microscope (~100X magnification) for any visible damage. The number of locations that are damaged at a particular power/energy level is recorded. Next, the power/energy is either increased or decreased and the optic is exposed at 10 new locations. This process is repeated until damage is observed. The damage threshold is then assigned to be the highest power/energy that the optic can withstand without causing damage. A histogram such as that below represents the testing of one BB1-E02 mirror.
|Fluence||# of Tested Locations||Locations with Damage||Locations Without Damage|
According to the test, the damage threshold of the mirror was 2.00 J/cm2 (532 nm, 10 ns pulse, 10 Hz, Ø0.803 mm). Please keep in mind that it is only representative of one coating run and that Thorlabs' specified damage thresholds account for coating variances.
Continuous Wave and Long-Pulse Lasers
When an optic is damaged by a continuous wave (CW) laser, it is usually due to the melting of the surface as a result of absorbing the laser's energy or damage to the optical coating (antireflection) . Pulsed lasers with pulse lengths longer than 1 µs can be treated as CW lasers for LIDT discussions. Additionally, when pulse lengths are between 1 ns and 1 µs, LIDT can occur either because of absorption or a dielectric breakdown (must check both CW and pulsed LIDT). Absorption is either due to an intrinsic property of the optic or due to surface irregularities; thus LIDT values are only valid for optics meeting or exceeding the surface quality specifications given by a manufacturer. While many optics can handle high power CW lasers, cemented (e.g., achromatic doublets) or highly absorptive (e.g., ND filters) optics tend to have lower CW damage thresholds. These lower thresholds are due to absorption or scattering in the cement or metal coating.
LIDT in linear power density vs. pulse length and spot size. For long pulses to CW, linear power density becomes a constant with spot size. This graph was obtained from .
Pulsed lasers with high pulse repetition frequencies (PRF) may behave similarly to CW beams. Unfortunately, this is highly dependent on factors such as absorption and thermal diffusivity, so there is no reliable method for determining when a high PRF laser will damage an optic due to thermal effects. For beams with a large PRF both the average and peak powers must be compared to the equivalent CW power. Additionally, for highly transparent materials, there is little to no drop in the LIDT with increasing PRF.
In order to use the specified CW damage threshold of an optic, it is necessary to know the following:
- Wavelength of your laser
- Linear power density of your beam (total power divided by 1/e2 spot size)
- Beam diameter of your beam (1/e2)
- Approximate intensity profile of your beam (e.g., Gaussian)
The power density of your beam should be calculated in terms of W/cm. The graph to the right shows why the linear power density provides the best metric for long pulse and CW sources. Under these conditions, linear power density scales independently of spot size; one does not need to compute an adjusted LIDT to adjust for changes in spot size. This calculation assumes a uniform beam intensity profile. You must now consider hotspots in the beam or other nonuniform intensity profiles and roughly calculate a maximum power density. For reference, a Gaussian beam typically has a maximum power density that is twice that of the 1/e2 beam (see lower right).
Now compare the maximum power density to that which is specified as the LIDT for the optic. If the optic was tested at a wavelength other than your operating wavelength, the damage threshold must be scaled appropriately. A good rule of thumb is that the damage threshold has a linear relationship with wavelength such that as you move to shorter wavelengths, the damage threshold decreases (i.e., a LIDT of 10 W/cm at 1310 nm scales to 5 W/cm at 655 nm). While this rule of thumb provides a general trend, it is not a quantitative analysis of LIDT vs wavelength. In CW applications, for instance, damage scales more strongly with absorption in the coating and substrate, which does not necessarily scale well with wavelength. While the above procedure provides a good rule of thumb for LIDT values, please contact Tech Support if your wavelength is different from the specified LIDT wavelength. If your power density is less than the adjusted LIDT of the optic, then the optic should work for your application.
Please note that we have a buffer built in between the specified damage thresholds online and the tests which we have done, which accommodates variation between batches. Upon request, we can provide individual test information and a testing certificate. The damage analysis will be carried out on a similar optic (customer's optic will not be damaged). Testing may result in additional costs or lead times. Contact Tech Support for more information.
As previously stated, pulsed lasers typically induce a different type of damage to the optic than CW lasers. Pulsed lasers often do not heat the optic enough to damage it; instead, pulsed lasers produce strong electric fields capable of inducing dielectric breakdown in the material. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to compare the LIDT specification of an optic to your laser. There are multiple regimes in which a pulsed laser can damage an optic and this is based on the laser's pulse length. The highlighted columns in the table below outline the pulse lengths that our specified LIDT values are relevant for.
Pulses shorter than 10-11 s cannot be compared to our specified LIDT values with much reliability. In this ultra-short-pulse regime various mechanics, such as multiphoton-avalanche ionization, take over as the predominate damage mechanism . In contrast, pulses between 10-9 s and 10-6 s may cause damage to an optic either because of dielectric breakdown or thermal effects. This means that both CW and pulsed damage thresholds must be compared to the laser beam to determine whether the optic is suitable for your application.
|Pulse Duration||t < 10-11 s||10-11 < t < 10-9 s||10-9 < t < 10-6 s||t > 10-6 s|
|Damage Mechanism||Avalanche Ionization||Dielectric Breakdown||Dielectric Breakdown or Thermal||Thermal|
|Relevant Damage Specification||N/A||Pulsed||Pulsed and CW||CW|
When comparing an LIDT specified for a pulsed laser to your laser, it is essential to know the following:
LIDT in energy density vs. pulse length and spot size. For short pulses, energy density becomes a constant with spot size. This graph was obtained from .
- Wavelength of your laser
- Energy density of your beam (total energy divided by 1/e2 area)
- Pulse length of your laser
- Pulse repetition frequency (prf) of your laser
- Beam diameter of your laser (1/e2 )
- Approximate intensity profile of your beam (e.g., Gaussian)
The energy density of your beam should be calculated in terms of J/cm2. The graph to the right shows why the energy density provides the best metric for short pulse sources. Under these conditions, energy density scales independently of spot size, one does not need to compute an adjusted LIDT to adjust for changes in spot size. This calculation assumes a uniform beam intensity profile. You must now adjust this energy density to account for hotspots or other nonuniform intensity profiles and roughly calculate a maximum energy density. For reference a Gaussian beam typically has a maximum power density that is twice that of the 1/e2 beam.
Now compare the maximum energy density to that which is specified as the LIDT for the optic. If the optic was tested at a wavelength other than your operating wavelength, the damage threshold must be scaled appropriately . A good rule of thumb is that the damage threshold has an inverse square root relationship with wavelength such that as you move to shorter wavelengths, the damage threshold decreases (i.e., a LIDT of 1 J/cm2 at 1064 nm scales to 0.7 J/cm2 at 532 nm):
You now have a wavelength-adjusted energy density, which you will use in the following step.
Beam diameter is also important to know when comparing damage thresholds. While the LIDT, when expressed in units of J/cm2, scales independently of spot size; large beam sizes are more likely to illuminate a larger number of defects which can lead to greater variances in the LIDT . For data presented here, a <1 mm beam size was used to measure the LIDT. For beams sizes greater than 5 mm, the LIDT (J/cm2) will not scale independently of beam diameter due to the larger size beam exposing more defects.
The pulse length must now be compensated for. The longer the pulse duration, the more energy the optic can handle. For pulse widths between 1 - 100 ns, an approximation is as follows:
Use this formula to calculate the Adjusted LIDT for an optic based on your pulse length. If your maximum energy density is less than this adjusted LIDT maximum energy density, then the optic should be suitable for your application. Keep in mind that this calculation is only used for pulses between 10-11 s and 10-9 s. For pulses between 10-9 s and 10-6 s, the CW LIDT must also be checked before deeming the optic appropriate for your application.
Please note that we have a buffer built in between the specified damage thresholds online and the tests which we have done, which accommodates variation between batches. Upon request, we can provide individual test information and a testing certificate. Contact Tech Support for more information.
 R. M. Wood, Optics and Laser Tech. 29, 517 (1997).
 Roger M. Wood, Laser-Induced Damage of Optical Materials (Institute of Physics Publishing, Philadelphia, PA, 2003).
 C. W. Carr et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 91, 127402 (2003).
 N. Bloembergen, Appl. Opt. 12, 661 (1973).