Liquid crystals for novel electro-optical applications

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


Liquid Crystals are fascinating and useful materials for the manipulation of light, most famously represented in the liquid crystal display. However, these material's interesting properties can also be used for a huge amount of non-display applications, this PhD aims to develop one of these, specifically beamsteering.
Beamsteering is the manipulation of a light's radiation pattern's direction, normally through the use of a spatially dependent phase modulation. However, historically this spatially dependent modulation has only been possible using mechanical movement, which can be both imprecise and time consuming. The development of a device which can precisely and reliably, change its optical properties on time scales which an incoming optical beam changes, would have far reaching applications in a huge number of industries.
The end goal of the entire PhD will be to move toward creating a patentable device, which will have the properties of directing light efficiently and continuously up to some wide angle (>20O). Ideally it will also be achromatic and polarisation independent, to increase functionality of the final device.
Aims and objectives
This PhD aims to develop a number of optically modulating devices for beamsteering applications and will use novel geometries, stimuli and alignment strategies in order to assess liquid crystals for these applications. The main aims can be summarised as:
Assessing the efficacy of liquid crystals as media to create optical structures capable of steering light.
Assess a number of methodologies of imposing such stimuli in a controllable way.
Discover most important parameters in choosing specific; liquid crystals, alignment coatings and geometries to create functioning devices.

Project will predominantly involve fabrication of various prototype beamsteering devices such as lenses and diffraction gratings, using liquid crystals as the key optical element. To do so the cleanroom facilities within Leeds school of Physics and Astronomy will be used including processes such as; thin film deposition, lithography, embossing, and metallic deposition.

Research Areas: Liquid crystal optical devices
Qualification to be attained: Ph.D degree in Physics

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509681/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1999106 Studentship EP/N509681/1 01/09/2017 30/09/2021 Rowan Morris
Description We have published a paper in the journal of applied physics on the creation and characterisation of an optical device based on driving liquid crystals to adopt a periodic structure. We are still working on the final project outcome which is confidential.
Exploitation Route It is too early to say the main desired research outcome is still in progress but would be of interest to the optics and photonics community both from an academic and industry standpoint.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Construction,Electronics,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport