I am sharing here the slides of a presentation I did for the course Séminaires en sciences physiques, from Université de Moncton, in Quebec, Canada.
Phase and polarization are the two main actors of this presentation. The ‘phase’ describes the cyclic change of electric and magnetic fields during one period of the wave, while the ‘polarization’ describes the shape and orientation of the path traced by the electric field during one period. This presentation will look back into two historical experiments that made revolutionary steps for understanding the interference of polarized beams of light, but that are often omitted in textbooks of current use. The first experiment is from the early XIXth century and served Fresnel and Arago to define their laws of interference. The second experiment is from mid XXth century when S. Pancharatnam pioneered the unintuitive concept of geometric phase to explain the results of his apparently simple interference experiments in crystals. Finally, we will study the ever-lasting influence of these experiments in modern research, especially in the novel designed metasurfaces for photonics applications.