The success of liquid crystals in visual display devices has assured their commercial viability and made them common in our everyday use. However, their uses and applications go well beyond the displays used on handheld devices. Projection systems, similar to displays, also make use of liquid crystals, but in the form of spatial light modulators.
A spatial light modulator (SLM) is a device that imposes variations in the amplitude, phase, or both, of a light beam. These devices can be used to change the amplitude, polarization, and phase over the spatial extent of a light beam and have become the mainstay of presentation technology commonly used in business and education. Most likely, if you have been part of a group attending a recent presentation, the video display shown on the screen passed through a SLM.
Liquid crystals used as displays or to modulate light for presentations just begins to touch on the uses of these materials. Spatial light modulators are being used in a wider range of applications than ever before. These novel technologies have greatly benefited from the research and technology development for their use in displays, but they are also of great interest in their own right.
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