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Describing a material in which the refractive index differs according to the plane of polarization of the light. Birefringence can be detected by using crossed Nicol prisms (polarizers set at right angles in the incident and transmitted light beams respectively, so that no light will pass); the birefringent material rotates the plane of polarization and appears bright against a dark background. The birefringence can be due to structural anisotropy (form birefringence), through orientation of molecules as a result of mechanical stretching of the material ( stress birefringence), or because molecules become aligned in flow ( flow birefringence).

Subjects: Medicine and Health.

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