Evaluation of Fossil Amber Birefringence and Inclusions Using Terahertz Time-Domain Spectroscopy

Alexander T. Clark, Sophia D’Anna, Jessy Nemati, Phillip Barden, Ian Gatley, John Federici

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Using a cross-polarization transmission geometry, stress maps for the normalized birefringence and intrinsic stress direction of polymeric materials may be obtained using terahertz nondestructive evaluation. The analysis method utilizes a deconvolution method to determine the arrival times and amplitude of the cross-polarized terahertz pulses through a birefringent material. Using amber (a naturally occurring polymer) as a material of interest, stress maps show that inclusion-free Lebanese amber samples behave as classic uniaxial birefringent (photoelastic) materials whose principal stress directions, as inferred in the terahertz spectral range, agree well with visible photoelasticity measurements. Since amber samples, depending upon their source, may be either transparent or opaque to visible light, comparing birefringence measurements in the visible and terahertz spectral ranges cross-validates the stress measurements, thereby establishing a strong and unique stress analysis methodology for visibly opaque samples. While the material of interest for this paper is amber, the method is generally applicable for any terahertz-transparent polymer. The cross-polarization experimental configuration enables stress levels within the amber matrix to be visualized while also outlining highly localized regions of stress surrounding inclusions. Birefringence stress maps clearly show localized increases in stress magnitude and directional changes surrounding inclusions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5506
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics


  • amber
  • birefringence
  • nondestructive evaluation
  • photoelasticity
  • stress
  • terahertz


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