birefringence: In a transparent material, anisotropism of the refractive index, which varies as a function of polarization as well as orientation with respect to the incident ray. (188) Note 1: The term "birefringence" means, literally, "double refraction." Note 2: All crystals except those of cubic lattice structure exhibit some degree of anisotropy with regard to their physical properties, including refractive index. Other materials, such as glasses or plastics, become birefringent when subjected to mechanical strain. Note 3: Birefringent materials, including crystals, have the ability to refract an unpolarized incident ray into two separate, orthogonally polarized rays, which in the general case take different paths, depending on orientation of the material with respect to the incident ray. The refracted rays are referred to as the "ordinary," or "O" ray, which obeys Snell's Law, and the "extraordinary," or "E" ray, which does not. [After FAA] Synonym double refraction.
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