Devices based on liquid crystals have become the mainstay of display technology used in mobile devices, vehicles, computer systems, and almost any other opportunity for information display imaginable. The aim of this book is to provide the optics community a liquid crystals primer that focuses on the optical components made from these fascinating materials. The book provides a functional overview of liquid crystal devices, their history, and their applications so that readers are prepared for more advanced texts and can continue to grow their abilities in this field. While it is not meant to be a complete mathematical treatise on the basics and applications of liquid crystals, the book does fill in some of the technical gaps, in particular in the area of adaptive optics applications.
Devices based on liquid crystals have become the mainstay of display technology used in mobile devices, vehicles, computer systems, and almost any other opportunity for information display imaginable. Not quite as well appreciated, even in the engineering world, is the influence of liquid crystals on optical systems ranging from adjustable lenses and filters to adaptive optics systems. Many excellent books have been written on the chemistry and physics of liquid crystals as well as on the technical devices that make use of liquid crystals. The aim of this book is to provide the optics community with a primer on liquid crystals that focuses on the optical components made from these fascinating materials.
While the use of liquid crystals as components of displays is recognized by most engineers and scientists, when it comes to liquid crystal devices used as optical component emulators or spatial light modulators, many people have little exposure to the technology or the basic principles involved. In this text we try to strike a balance between providing sufficient background material to support easy understanding of the topic while pressing forward into the fascinating technology of liquid crystals.
We hope that Introduction to Liquid Crystals for Optical Design and Engineering provides interested readers with a functional overview of the topic, its history, and its applications so that they can move on to more advanced texts and continue to grow their abilities in this field. While this book is not meant to be a complete mathematical treatise on the basics and applications of liquid crystals, we do try to fill in some of the gaps, in particular, in the area of adaptive optics applications. Indeed, adaptive optics applications were the motivation for our initial involvement in liquid crystal devices.
Chapter 1 provides a general introduction to liquid crystals, a history, and some of the nomenclature to move farther into the topic. Chapter 2 is an overview of the properties of liquid crystals and introduces the idea of the alignment of their molecules. Chapter 3 covers the optical properties of polarization and birefringence as they apply to liquid crystals—properties that make them interesting for engineers and scientists. Chapter 4 presents liquid crystal displays and discusses why they are so useful in today’s technology. Chapter 5 provides an introduction to spatial light modulators and their importance in manipulating the phase and intensity of light. Chapter 6 increases our appreciation of spatial light modulators as optical element emulators. Chapter 7 provides details of the use of liquid crystals as components in adaptive optics systems. Chapter 8 rounds out the topics of the book by pointing toward future uses of liquid crystals. A historical overview of the literature on liquid crystals is provided in Chapter 9, which includes a chronological list of relevant publications, starting from 1888.
We greatly appreciate all of the colleagues and friends who have both directly and indirectly helped us in preparing and writing this book, and we are grateful for their unswerving and unselfish support. We would particularly like to thank Jonathan Andrews, Chris Wilcox, and Ty Martinez of the Naval Research Laboratory; David Wick of Sandia National Laboratories; Don Payne of Honeywell; and Jeffery Baker of Baker Adaptive Optics and Laird Thompson of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for their efforts with us in the laboratory exploring many of the more interesting facets of electro-optics. We apologize if we have inadvertently left anyone off this list but sincerely appreciate all of the help and support of our colleagues at both the Naval Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, New Mexico.
While we have benefited from the assistance of many individuals in preparing this work, any errors that remain in the text are ours to fix. We would appreciate receiving any assistance in this in the form of comments and corrections. Please direct any correspondence to the authors c/o New Mexico Tech, Electrical Engineering Department, Socorro, NM 87801, USA.
We are most grateful for the support of SPIE for their interest in publishing this work as part of the Tutorial Text Series and particularly Dara Burrows, our editor, for putting this work into its final form.
Sergio R. Restaino
Naval Research Laboratory
Scott W. Teare
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology