Mueller matrices and the degree of polarization

Shih Yau Lu, Russell A. Chipman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


This article shows that only polarizers, retarders, and improper rotation Mueller matrices do not decrease the degree of polarization for any input Stokes vector. On the other hand, a Mueller matrix does not increase the degree of polarization for any input Stokes vector if and only if it has an unpolarized Stokes vector as eigenvector. Furthermore, for any Mueller matrix an unpolarized incident Stokes vector always has the maximum gain in the degree of polarization. It is pointed out that a general Mueller matrix deforms the Poincaré sphere (for input Stokes vectors) into an ellipsoid (for output Stokes vectors). Finally, several inequalities involving the input and output degrees of polarization are derived.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-14
Number of pages4
JournalOptics Communications
Issue number1-6
StatePublished - Jan 15 1998


  • Jones matrix
  • Mueller matrix
  • Polarimetry
  • Polarization
  • Stokes vector

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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