Meaning of Nicol prism in English:

Nicol prism

Pronunciation /ˈnɪk(ə)l/


  • A device for producing plane-polarized light, consisting of two pieces of optically clear calcite or Iceland spar cemented together with Canada balsam in the shape of a prism.

    ‘The Nicol prism, which is made entirely of calcite, a doubly refracting mineral, isolates one beam cleanly.’
    • ‘The two beams, with two different planes of polarization, are then analyzed by another Nicol prism.’
    • ‘The aluminum handle used to rotate the Nicol prism assembly is clearly not original.’
    • ‘A simple mounting consisting of a Nicol prism in a brass holder was found with the instrument and now serves as the polarizer.’
    • ‘In this sense, the Nicol prism performs an analysis of the light.’
    • ‘By placing a substance between two Nicol prisms and rotating one, the angle of optical rotation could be easily measured.’
    • ‘Although its significance went unrecognised at the time, the Nicol prism is now used in all polarising microscopes today.’
    • ‘Polarization can be verified by rotating either the Nicol prism or the Polaroid, which is between the Nicol prism and the lens in the photograph.’
    • ‘Below the stage is a mirror to reflect light up through the specimen and a Nicol prism can be swung in to polarise the light.’
    • ‘The light is admitted into the far end of the instrument and is polarized by passing through a Nicol prism.’
    • ‘The Nicol prism is made up from two prisms of calcite cemented with Canada balsam.’
    • ‘The result is a transparent birefringent crystal, known as a Nicol prism, which effective separates polarized light at the interface between the two crystal halves.’
    • ‘The Nicol prism has two birefringent prisms and, attached together by a transparent adhesive substance such as Canada Balsam cement, which forms the polarizing interface.’
    • ‘Today, Nicol prisms are still very expensive, bulky and of limited aperture.’
    • ‘It is also used in optical instrument such as polarizing microscopes and Nicol prisms.’
    • ‘Late 19th century developments in optics and in optical techniques employing Nicol prisms were numerous, including petrographic microscopes; scattering of light; photoelasticity; optical properties of metals and thin films; electro-optic effects; and new magneto-optic effects including the Zeeman effect which promoted new understanding of light emission and atomic structure.’


Mid 19th century named after William Nicol (died 1851), the Scottish physicist who invented it.