The characteristics of a surface, particularly the roughness, play an important role in different fields of the industry and have to be considered to ensure quality standards. Currently, there are numerous sophisticated methods for measuring surface roughness but plenty of them cause long-term damage because they are in contact with the sample. This article presents a non-contact method to accurately determine small surface roughnesses resulting from the consideration of the depolarization effects caused by the rough surface. This technique can be applied as an extension in various roughness measurements and improves the approach of Chandley’s
technique, which does not take into account the depolarization of the light scattered by the sample. The experimental setup and the measurements are easy to perform. The essential component is a quarter wave plate, which is incorporated into a Michelson interferometer. With the resulting two different contrasts and the recorded intensities of the sample and the reference mirror, the surface roughness can be estimated straightforwardly. This article details the theoretical approach, followed by the experimental results and the corresponding uncertainties. The experimental results are compared with Chandley’s
method. In order to have reference roughness values of the samples, measurements with a stylus profilometer and with a confocal microscope are performed and compared.
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