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Ema Condori-Teves

21 October, 2016

How Polarization Works

Why is it that the kindle screen looked black when looking through the glasses when the screen
was held vertically, but looked normal when the screen was held horizontally?

And why was this not the case for the other pair of sunglasses used?

It is much simpler to answer the second question first. The reason why one pair of
sunglasses made the screen appear black when looking at the screen horizontally, and the other
pair of sunglasses didnt, is because one pair of the sunglasses was polarized, while the other pair
wasnt. So why is this important?

What are Polarized light waves? Polarized light waves are light waves in which the
vibrations occur in a single plane. The process or transforming polarized lights into polarized
light is known as polarization. A light wave is an electromagnetic wave that travels through the
vacuum of outer space. Light waves are produced by vibrating electric charges. An
electromagnetic wave is a transverse wave (perpendicular direction), which is important to
remember for understanding how polarization works.

Polarization of light by use of a Polaroid filter

Polaroid Filters are made of a special material that is capable of blocking out one of the
two planes of vibrations of an electromagnetic wave, Meaning that when non-polarized light is
transmitted through a polaroid filter, the filter then filters out one half of the vibrations and its
intensity of a single plane making it polarized light.
These filters can be thought of as having a long chain of molecules that are aligned with
the filter in the same direction. When the filters are fabricated, a long chain of molecules is
stretched in the vertical direction. As non-polarized light go through he filter, the vertical
portions of those light waves are absorbed by the filter. So, to summarize that thought, the
electromagnetic vibrations that are in a direction parallel to the alignment of the molecules are
absorbed. The Polarization axis only allows the vibration of the electromagnetic wave that is
parallel to the axis pass through.

So what happens to the perpendicular, or in this case, the horizontal electromagnetic


waves? Any vibration that is perpendicular to the polarization axis is blocked by the filter.
Meaning that the Polaroid filter with the long chain molecules aligned vertically will have a
polarization axis that is also aligned vertically, blocking the horizontal vibrations and absorbing
the vertical vibrations.

So, if the Polaroid filters long chain molecules were aligned horizontally, then the
polarization axis would also be horizontal and the vertical vibrations would be blocked while the
horizontal vibrations re absorbed.

So why is the kindle screen black when looked through with the Polarized glasses when
held vertically and not horizontally?

The Kindle screen has a Polaroid filter as well as the glasses. When the two polarized
filters are placed together perpendicularly the light is blocked out, therefore making the screen
black. In this case, the polarization on the glasses is horizontal and the long chain molecules on
the kindle screen were also aligned horizontally. So when the light passed through the first filter,
the horizontal vibrations were absorbed as well as through the second filter. When the Kindle
screen was turned vertically the filters were aligned perpendicularly. So when the light passed
through the first filter only horizontal vibrations passed through, but it was blocked out by the
second filter because only vertical vibrations could be absorbed, meaning all of the lights
electromagnetic vibrations blocked out, and the screen appears black.