Localised polymer networks in chiral nematic liquid crystals for high speed photonic switching
Tartan CC., Salter PS., Booth MJ., Morris SM., Elston SJ.
© 2016 Author(s). Self-assembled periodic structures based upon chiral liquid crystalline materials have significant potential in the field of photonics ranging from fast-switching optoelectronic devices to low-threshold lasers. The flexoelectro-optic effect, which is observed in chiral nematic liquid crystals (LCs) when an electric field is applied perpendicular to the helical axis, has significant potential as it exhibits analogue switching in 10-100 μs. However, the major technological barrier that prohibits the commercial realisation of this electro-optic effect is the requirement of a uniform, in-plane alignment of the helix axis between glass substrates. Here, it is shown that periodic polymer structures engineered in the nematic phase of a chiral nematic LC device using direct laser writing can result in the spontaneous formation of the necessary uniform lying helix (ULH) state. Specifically, two-photon polymerization is used in conjunction with a spatial light modulator so as to correct for aberrations introduced by the bounding glass substrates enabling the polymer structures to be fabricated directly into the device. The ULH state appears to be stable in the absence of an externally applied electric field, and the optimum contrast between the bright and dark states is obtained using polymer structures that have periodicities of the order of the device thickness.