Fabrication of micro- and nanometre-scale polymer structures in liquid crystal devices for next generation photonics applications
Tartan CC., Salter PS., Booth MJ., Morris SM., Elston SJ.
© 2016 SPIE. Direct Laser Writing (DLW) by two-photon photopolymerization (TPP) enables the fabrication of micron-scale polymeric structures in soft matter systems. The technique has implications in a broad range of optics and photonics; in particular fast-switching liquid crystal (LC) modes for the development of next generation display technologies. In this paper, we report two different methodologies using our TPP-based fabrication technique. Two explicit examples are provided of voltage-dependent LC director profiles that are inherently unstable, but which appear to be promising candidates for fast-switching photonics applications. In the first instance, ∼1 μm-thick periodic walls of polymer network are written into a planar aligned (parallel rubbed) nematic pi-cell device containing a nematic LC-monomer mixture. The structures are fabricated when the device is electrically driven into a fast-switching nematic LC state and aberrations induced by the device substrates are corrected for by virtue of the adaptive optics elements included within the DLW setup. Optical polarizing microscopy images taken post-fabrication reveal that polymer walls oriented perpendicular to the rubbing direction promote the stability of the so-called optically compensated bend mode upon removal of the externally applied field. In the second case, polymer walls are written in a nematic LC-optically adhesive glue mixture. A polymer- LCs-polymer-slices or 'POLICRYPS' template is formed by immersing the device in acetone post-fabrication to remove any remaining non-crosslinked material. Injecting the resultant series of polymer microchannels (∼1 μm-thick) with a short-pitch, chiral nematic LC mixture leads to the spontaneous alignment of a fast-switching chiral nematic mode, where the helical axis lies parallel to the glass substrates. Optimal contrast between the bright and dark states of the uniform lying helix alignment is achieved when the structures are spaced at the order of the device thickness, which was also found to be the case for the achiral system. The high resolution DLW technique limits structures to the focal spot size of the beam, ∼1 μm in diameter, such that the transmittance is expected to be significantly enhanced relative to other stabilization techniques. Moreover, both devices remain stable under electrical and thermal cycling.