We describe the principle and report on the realization of a null polarimeter with two demonstrated features: (1) the sensitivity of the system is near shot noise limit and (2) quasi-stationary signals at 1 Hz can be measured without signal modulation. The achieved single-pass sensitivity is 7 × 10−9 rad/ Hz with a pair of Glan-Taylor polarizers, which should be of great interest for experiments such as observation of vacuum magnetic birefringence and search for new particles. The system is brought near its shot noise limit by appropriate polarization control and coherent heterodyne detection of light, resulting in a sensitivity improvement by two orders of magnitude in comparison with the case of no control on light polarization.

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