Nomarski prism

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Schematic illustration of a Nomarski prism. Unpolarized light enters on the left, and the two polarizations (ordinary and extraordinary polarization) are separated. The prism itself consists of two birefringent crystals, glued together with an adhesive such as Canada balsam.

A Nomarski prism is a modification of the Wollaston prism that is used in differential interference contrast microscopy. It is named after its inventor, Polish physicist Georges Nomarski. Like the Wollaston prism, the Nomarski prism consists of two birefringent crystal wedges (e.g. quartz or calcite) cemented together at the hypotenuse (e.g. with Canada balsam). One of the wedges is identical to a conventional Wollaston wedge and has the optical axis oriented parallel to the surface of the prism. The second wedge of the prism is modified by cutting the crystal in such a manner that the optical axis is oriented obliquely with respect to the flat surface of the prism. The Nomarski modification causes the light rays to come to a focal point outside the body of the prism, and allows greater flexibility so that when setting up the microscope the prism can be actively focused.

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