Beam Me Up, Scotty: What are Beam Splitters?

Most of us have come into contact with a beam splitter at some point in our lives without even realizing what it was called. This is true even if you’ve never watched Star Trek for reference (we forgive you).

Whether you are aware or not, beam splitters are quite ubiquitous. They exist in many different forms. These forms include the humble kaleidoscope and the modern-day laser beam. They also have their fair share of uses in optics.

So let’s take a closer look at what they are and how they work.

What Is a Beam Splitter?

A beam splitter is a device that conducts light separation. It’s used to communicate with a remote location or to split a laser beam into several different beams.

The splitter splits a beam of light into two different streams. These streams travel in opposite directions.

How Does a Beam Splitter Work?

For a light beam to split, it must first have its direction of travel changed. Here, “beam” refers to the amount of power (in watts) transmitted by the light source – think “beam of light.”

Beam splitters accomplish this by creating a 90-degree turn in the light’s transmission path using specialized mirrors. The two resulting beams of light will have equal amounts of power but will travel in opposite directions. This is a polarized beam splitter.

Benefits of Beam Splitters

Beam splitters have many benefits in optical systems, as described in this article source. The most practical reason for their existence is that they can combine many light beams with different wavelengths. This is otherwise called “multiplexing.”

Multiplexing is most often used in fiber optic communication systems. When beams travel through fiber optic cable, they use a simple beam splitter to separate the individual beams of light into their constituent wavelengths before combining them into one coherent bundle.

Another benefit is that a beam splitter can separate light beams with different color components, using a process called color separation. This allows the beams to travel through a single optical system.

Not all beam splitters are equal; many different designs serve their purpose very well. Some beam splitters use polarization, and others use diffraction (also known as Bragg diffraction) to separate light.

Use Cases of Beam Splitters

Beam splitters are excellent for use in so many ways. Splitting laser beams is pivotal in test conditions where a laser beam must “walk” over a surface.

Color separation is often used in astronomy to make telescope or camera images.

Beam splitters are popular in fiber optic communication systems. That’s because they allow the transmission of many wavelengths of light at once.

Beam Splitters Are Everywhere

Beam splitters are often overlooked in daily life, but they are, in fact, quite ubiquitous.

While they aren’t used in everyday life, beam splitters exist in enough applications to take note. And, as modern science develops, it’ll be fascinating to see which path beam splitters take next in helping us live long and prosper.

Keep browsing our site to learn more awesome facts!

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