Electrochromic (EC) materials are used in "smart" windows that can be darkened by applying a voltage across an EC stack on the window. The associated change in refractive index (n) in the EC materials might allow their use in tunable or temperature-insensitive Fabry-Perot filters and transmissive-spatial-light-modulators (SLMs).
The authors are conducting a preliminary evaluation of these materials in many applications, including target-in-the-loop systems. Data on tungsten oxide, WO3, the workhorse EC material, indicate that it's possible to achieve modest changes in n with only slight increases in absorption between the visible and ~10 μm. This might enable construction of a tunable Fabry-Perot filter consisting of an active EC layer (e.g. WO3) and a proton conductor (e.g.Ta2O5) sandwiched between two gold electrodes. A SLM might be produced by replacing the gold with a transparent conductor (e.g. ITO). This SLM would allow broad-band operation like a micromirror array. Since it's a transmission element, simple optical designs like those in liquid-crystal systems would be possible.
Our team has fabricated EC stacks and characterized their switching speed and optical properties (n, k). We plan to study the interplay between process parameters, film properties, and performance characteristics associated with the FP-filter and then extend what we learn to SLMs. Our goals are to understand whether the changes in absorption associated with changes in n are acceptable, and whether it's possible to design an EC-stack that's fast enough to be interesting.
We'll present our preliminary findings regarding the potential viability of EC materials for target-in-the-loop applications.