Liquid crystals have revolutionized visual display systems and are the most common displays in the entertainment, computer, and mobile technology industries. The key to their use is their ability to affect and manipulate polarized light. Liquid crystals have the property of birefringence; i.e., the refractive index of the material depends on the propagation direction and the polarization of the light. In liquid crystals birefringence can be used to transform linearly polarized light to elliptically polarized light. This can be demonstrated where light blocked by passage through two crossed polarizers can be made to pass through crossed polarizers when a liquid crystal material is placed between the polarizers. In this chapter we will discuss polarization and birefringence in the context of the optical properties of liquid crystals, with a general introduction of optics.
Online access to SPIE eBooks is limited to subscribing institutions.