Near-eye display performance is usually summarized with a few simple metrics such as field of view, resolution, brightness, size, and weight, which are derived from the display industry. In practice, near-eye displays often suffer from image artifacts not captured in traditional display metrics. This work defines several immersive near-eye display metrics such as gaze resolution, pupil swim, image contrast, and stray light. We will discuss these metrics and their trade-offs through review of a few families of viewing optics. Fresnel lenses are used in most commercial virtual reality near-eye displays in part due to their light weight, low volume and acceptable pupil swim performance. However, Fresnel lenses can suffer from significant stray light artifacts. We will share our measurements of several lenses and demonstrate ways to improve performance. Smooth refractive lens systems offer the option for lower stray-light viewing but usually at the cost of a much larger size and weight in order to get to the same pupil swim performance. This can be addressed by using a curved image plane but requires new display technology. Polarization-based pancake optics is promising and can provide excellent image resolution and pupil swim performance within an attractive form-factor. This approach, however, generally results in low light efficiency and poor image contrast due to severe ghosting. We will discuss some of the main limitations of that technology.
We demonstrate a fast-response liquid crystal display (LCD) with an ultra-low-viscosity nematic LC mixture. The measured average motion picture response time is only 6.88 ms, which is comparable to 6.66 ms for an OLED at a 120 Hz frame rate. If we slightly increase the TFT frame rate and/or reduce the backlight duty ratio, image blurs can be further suppressed to unnoticeable level. Potential applications of such an image-blur-free LCD for virtual reality, gaming monitors, and TVs are foreseeable.
In this paper, we report a computational and experimental study using tunable infrared (IR) metamaterial absorbers (MMAs) to demonstrate frequency tunable (7%) and amplitude modulation (61%) designs. The dynamic tuning of each structure was achieved through the addition of an active material—liquid crystals (LC) or vanadium dioxide (VO2)--within the unit cell of the MMA architecture. In both systems, an applied stimulus (electric field or temperature) induced a dielectric change in the active material and subsequent variation in the absorption and reflection properties of the MMA in the mid- to long-wavelength region of the IR (MWIR and LWIR, respectively). These changes were observed to be reversible for both systems and dynamic in the LC-based structure.
Liquid crystal (LC) is an amazing class of electro-optic media; its applications span from visible to infrared, millimeter wave, and terahertz regions. In the visible and short-wavelength infrared (SWIR) regions, most LCs are highly transparent. However, to extend the electro-optic application of LCs into MWIR and LWIR, several key technical challenges have to be overcome: (1) low absorption loss, (2) high birefringence, (3) low operation voltage, and (4) fast response time. In the MWIR and LWIR regions, several fundamental molecular vibration bands and overtones exist, which contribute to high absorption loss. The absorbed light turns to heat and then alters the birefringence locally, which in turns causes spatially non-uniform phase modulation. To suppress the optical loss, several approaches have been investigated: (1) Employing thin cell gap by choosing a high birefringence LC mixture; (2) Shifting the absorption bands outside the spectral region of interest by deuteration, fluorination, or chlorination; (3) Reducing the overtone absorption by using a short alkyl chain. In this paper, we report some recently developed chlorinated LC compounds and mixtures with low absorption loss in the SWIR and MWIR regions. To achieve fast response time, we demonstrated a polymer network liquid crystal with 2π phase change at MWIR and response time less than 5 ms. Approaches to extend such a liquid crystal spatial light modulator to long-wavelength infrared will be discussed.
Liquid crystals (LC) have widespread applications for amplitude modulation (e.g. flat panel displays) and phase modulation (e.g. beam steering). For phase modulation, a 2π phase modulo is required. To extend the electro-optic application into infrared region (MWIR and LWIR), several key technical challenges have to be overcome: 1. low absorption loss, 2. high birefringence, 3. low operation voltage, and 4. fast response time. After three decades of extensive development, an increasing number of IR devices adopting LC technology have been demonstrated, such as liquid crystal waveguide, laser beam steering at 1.55μm and 10.6 μm, spatial light modulator in the MWIR (3~5μm) band, dynamic scene projectors for infrared seekers in the LWIR (8~12μm) band. However, several fundamental molecular vibration bands and overtones exist in the MWIR and LWIR regions, which contribute to high absorption coefficient and hinder its widespread application. Therefore, the inherent absorption loss becomes a major concern for IR devices. To suppress IR absorption, several approaches have been investigated: 1) Employing thin cell gap by choosing a high birefringence liquid crystal mixture; 2) Shifting the absorption bands outside the spectral region of interest by deuteration, fluorination and chlorination; 3) Reducing the overlap vibration bands by using shorter alkyl chain compounds. In this paper, we report some chlorinated LC compounds and mixtures with a low absorption loss in the near infrared and MWIR regions. To achieve fast response time, we have demonstrated a polymer network liquid crystal with 2π phase change at MWIR and response time less than 5 ms.