The dramatic event in the life of Paul Soleillet

In my research for more bibliographic information about Paul Soleillet I have found some additional information about the “drame familial” (family drama) mentioned by Jean Claude Pecker in his bibliography.

This happened in December 1931 when P. Soleillet was 29 years old.

Jean Claude-Pecker, told me he had the opportunity to meet Soleillet (“homme charmant et discret” according to his words) when Soleillet was working with Daniel Chalonge. However he was unable to send me a picture of him (Jean Claude-Pecker is 96 years old) . My search has been completely unsuccessful and, apparently, there are no traces of him at any of the institutions he worked. He remains as a misterious man.

Completing an experimental nondepolarizing Mueller matrix whose column or row is missing [code provided]

During the last months I have been working with Razvigor Ossikovski in a method to complete an experimental Mueller matrix with a row or column missing into a full Mueller matrix in situations where is no depolarization. Thus this method converts a 12-element partial Mueller matrix into a 16-element Mueller matrix. We are talking about these type of incomplete matrices, which are rather common in many ellipsometers/polarimeters:

The code we propose has many advantages over other approaches we have tested because it is algebraic (no fitting involved), numerically very robust and very fast. The details of the method are given in the following two papers (specially in the first one):

In this post we include a simple Matlab script that applies our method to a single 12-element partial Mueller matrix. Feel free to use this script adapting it to your needs. But please cite it!

The Fresnel Triprism and the circular polarization of light

Last year I talked many times about the Fresnel triprism in this website. Recently our research work about this composite prism was published in Optics Express where we make an analogy with the famous Stern-Gerlach experiment.

Almost at the same time, we have published a more divulgative report about the history of the Fresnel Triprism in a special issue of the journal Photoniques from the French Optical Society I hope it is an interesting reading for you.

A summary of recent activities

As I do not update this site very often, it is worth to make a very quick summary of recent reseach-related activities I have done:

BIOAM Conference

In October I attended the “2nd International Workshop on Biophotonics and Orbital Angular Momentum” (BIOAM-2018). My talk was titled “Separating photons by spin with the method of A. Fresnel“.

Fresnel’s Triprism

My talk in the BIAOM conference was mainly devoted to something I already mentioned in this blog: the Fresnel triprism.  Since I published that post, I got more and more interested in Fresnel’s alternative method to generate circularly polarized light. I should comment two relevant things that boosted my interest:

  • Fresnel’s original memoir from 1822 is very interesting and easy to read (you can find it in Fresnel’s Ouvres Completes). It is mostly a descriptive  work that I am not sure it has been fully appreciated.
  • I was able to find and use a Fresnel’s polyprims! I found it in the Museum of the École Polytechnique, that was recently inaugutared. Even more surprising was to discover that it was not a triprism, as I assumed when I saw it for first time, but an octoprism! (featuring eight quartz prisms of alternating handedness) and more than 150 years old!.

In our preprint, you can find more information  about the experiments we did and other findings related to  Fresnel polyprisms

Trip to China

  • In November I visited the group of Prof. Shiyuan Liu in the Huazhong University of Science and Technology (in  Wuhan, CHINA). They are doing a really impressive work in ellipsometry instrumentation and optical metrology. They have created a spin-off company E-optics that is commertiallizing several of the ellipsometers that they have developed.
  • During the trip to China I also attended to the 3rd China Symposium on Polarimetry an Ellipsometry, held in Shenzhen, China. This was mainly a chinese conference but a few international speakers giving plenary talks. My talk was titled: “Complete Mueller matrix from a partial polarimetry experiment“. This topic of research is part of an on-going collaboration work with Razvigor Ossikovski (École Polytechnique, France).

New paper: Light scattering by coupled oriented dipoles: Decomposition of the scattering matrix

In this paper we study the optical response of two coupled oriented dipoles with the dimer axis perpendicular to the wave vector of light by analyzing how their scattering matrix can be decomposed. The scattering matrix can be written as a linear combination of three terms with a clear physical meaning: one for each particle and another that is responsible for the coupling and that vanishes for noninteracting or distant particles. We show that the interaction term may generate optical activity for certain scattering directions and that this effect manifests itself mostly in the near field. This simple and intuitive theory based on matrix and vector states of oriented dipoles also describes hybridization processes and Fano resonances. The decomposition method can be also formulated in terms of a hybrid basis that allows us to quantitatively determine the individual contribution of the in-phase and out-of-phase coupling modes to the overall intensity. Our method can help to understand the optical response of more complex nanostructures that can be decomposed into dipole terms. The results are illustrated in gold nanoantenna dimers which exhibit a strong dipolar resonance.

The paper is published in Phys. Rev. B an available at

Here you can get a preprint version

Download (PDF, 2.03MB)

Paul Soleillet, again!

If Paul Soleillet has a special section in this website this is probably because I have spent more time reading an understanding his PhD thesis than any other scientific paper. And I have to confess that at the beginning (my first contact with his work was 2011) I understood very little of it. However, this last two years I have been  rereading this work several times, understanding more and more of it.  And every time I was more amazed.

Last year I published how Soleillet pioneered the differential polarization calculus in the third part of his thesis. This year, together with my colleague Shane Nichols, I have published a new paper that emphasizes the contributions of Soleillet to the description of coherence and polarization in 3D (first and second part of his thesis).

Oriol Arteaga and Shane Nichols, “Soleillet’s formalism of coherence and partial polarization in 2D and 3D: application to fluorescence polarimetry,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. A35, 1254-1260 (2018)

I think that some of the results that we emphasize in this paper, originally discovered by Soleillet but that we put in a more recognizable, format  are very important for the  fluorescence polarimetry. If you are interested in the topic, I think our paper will be very useful.

Note about Soleillet’s biographical information

I am still looking for a photo of Paul Soleillet. I cannot believe that a person who died in 1992 and worked in major French scientific institutions for many decades has NO photo! I contact every place where he worked, without any luck.

However a couple of weeks ago I visited the  Archives Nationales in Paris and I was able to access to several original documents of Paul Soleillet from when he  enrolled the École normale supérieure. See below some of them.



The Fresnel triprism, an almost forgotten wonder?

Recently I have become interested in the Fresnel triprism (sometimes also simply known as Fresnel prism). It is a prism made of quartz cemented in between two other half prisms also made of quartz, but with  opposite handedness than the central prism. See below a drawing of this prism from the book “Concepts of Classical Optics, by J. Strong (1958)”  which was republished by Dover in 2012.

Fresnel demonstrated as early as in 1822 that an incident beam of unpolarized light could be separated into its circularly polarized components (by multiple refraction through a composite prism of alternating left- and right-handed quartz segments). Fresnel was describing a phenoma of double refraction in Quartz along the optic axis, based on the the difference in phase velocities of states of opposite circular polarization. The interesting point is that this double refraction is an interface effect at the prism’s interfaces, because left- and right- circular polarization present differential refraction and they are refracted (i. e. deviated) by a different angle.

The triprism produces rays of perfect LCP and RCP, with an angular separation dependent upon the dimensions of the prisms and the wavelength, from a collimated incident beam of unpolarized or plane-polarized light. It seems that the there was a time when the Fresnel prism (or variations of it adding even more prisms with alternating handedness to magnify the effect) was quite popular, and the properties of this Fresnel prism are mentioned in many books. However, nowadays is mostly a forgotten optics relic and, apparently nobody is manufacturing them any more. They can probably still be found in some old laboratories, but I have never had the chance to see one (yes, I am searching one!).

I think that the Fresnel triprism could really helpful to teach concepts about the polarization of light and optical activity, because it is the most clear experimental demonstration that unpolarized or linear-polarized light can be decomposed in LCP and RCP contributions. And more importantly, I also think that the Fresnel triprism could have today many applications in chiroptics, as it is probably, one of the most elegant (and argueably better) ways to generate good circularly polarized light. Remember that current methods to generate circular polarization are almost always based in the use of quarter-wave retarders, optical components that tend to be chromatic and with a non-ideal polarization response. In contrast, crystal-based polarizers tend to be very achromatic and with an almost ideal polarization response because, like the Fresnel triprism, are based in the beam splitting due to double refraction. 

The only paper known to me where the Fresnel prism was used for a chiroptical application is R. Manuel Echarri, The fresnel prism as polarization interferometer, Microwave and Optical Technology Letters 6(7):403-407,1993. See below a figure from this paper. The author of this paper recently told me that the prism he used was lost among old materials and probably was more than 100 years old.

Somebody wants to make Fresnel triprisms again?

Blog recommendation: Skulls in the Stars

Every year I am getting more interested in the history of optics, particularly during the XIXth century and first half of XXth century. The blog Skulls in the Stars  by Gregory J. Gbur contains really interesting posts about the history of optics during this period, with very rich and enriching explanations  than are not found in optics books.

For François Arago fans like myself I cannot avoid recommending the following three posts: