SBIR Phase II: A New Class of Ferroelectric Liquid Crystals for High Performance Optical Phase Modulation
National Science Foundation
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Small Business Information
2602 Clover Basin Drive, Longmont, CO, 80503
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
AbstractThis Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project will develop a new class of ferroelectric liquid crystal (FLC) materials and novel operating mode to produce fast, analog, electro-optic phase modulation. This innovation exploits two recent developments in liquid crystal science: a new liquid crystal phase made from novel bent-core "banana" molecules, and electrostatically controlled analog modulation of high polarization FLCs. The new modulators will offer the fixed-optic-axis phase modulation capability of a nematic liquid crystal in combination with the much faster speed and lower drive voltage of a ferroelectric. Present day FLCs modulate light through electrically driven optic axis rotation. Phase modulation range is limited to less than 180 degrees unless complex multi-element device designs are used. What's so novel about the new FLC is that it modulates light through changes in its index of refraction; the direction of the optic axis remains fixed. Furthermore that modulation can be analog, unlike conventional FLCs, which are binary. This enables simpler device structures and phase ranges greater than 360 degrees. The new FLC should be compatible with liquid-crystal-on-silicon technology (LCOS), allowing the ability to construct inexpensive wavelength-tunable devices and wavefront modulators for diverse application including telecommunications, holographic and conventional optical data storage, and microdisplays. This production on an electro-optic technology could be useful in an existing market (microdisplays), and could enable large new markets in the near future (active optics, optical data storage, telecommunications). Advantages over alternative technologies due to the nature of a lower cost manufacturing processes, and the ability to easily implement complex functionality because of the integration of this electro-optic technology with standard CMOS VLSI technology. Society could benefit through job creation, enhanced telecommunications, and improved data storage technologies.
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