Twisted-nematic liquid crystal displays (TN-LCD) are widely used in numerous research fields of optics working as
spatial light modulators. Approaches to obtaining desired intensity or phase modulation by TN-LCD have been
extensively studied based on the knowledge of TN-LCD’s internal structure parameters, e.g., the orientation of LC
molecules at the surfaces, the twist angle, the thickness of the LC layer, and the birefringence of the material. Generally TN-LCD placed between two linear polarizers (P) produces coupled intensity and phase modulation. To obtain the commonly used pure phase modulation, quarter wave plates (QWP) are often used in front of and/or behind the LCD. In this paper, we present a method to optimize the optical modulation properties of the TN-LCD to obtain pure phase modulation in the configuration of P-QWP-LCD-QWP-P each with proper orientation. Firstly an improved method for determining the Jones matrix of the TN-LCD without knowing its internal parameters is presented, which is based on the macroscopical Jones matrix descriptions for TN-LCD, linear polarizer and QWP. Only three sets of intensity measurements are needed for the complete determination of the TN-LCD’s Jones matrix for a single wavelength. Then Jones matrix calculations are carried out to determine the orientations of the polarizers and QWPs for pure phase modulation response. In addition, we prove that the phase modulation depth (PMD) of the TN-LCD can be further increased provided that the mean intensity transmission is decreased to a lower level, which is very useful when the TN-LCD is used as a phase modulator and the ratio between the intensities of the desired diffracted order relative to the other diffracted orders is required higher. Experimental results coincide well with the optical modulation properties of the TN-LCD predicted by our determined Jones matrix. In contrast to the traditional method which requires knowledge of the TN-LCD’s internal structure parameters, our method simplified the complicated theory analysis and intensity measurement, and can work in the absence of information on the TN-LCD’s internal structure parameters which are usually not available for commercial products.