An optical liquid crystal switch will be presented in public for the first time by the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IMPS) at Photonics West in January.
For IMPS the liquid crystal switch has high reliability and stability because it has no moving parts and can deliver sub-microsecond switching times. Switched with what IMPS calls a ‘reasonable operation voltage’ the switch is transparent over a spectral range of 400nm to 1600nm and is designed primarily for optical communication networks of fibre sensor networks. The application of a voltage causes the refractive index to alter for part of the liquid crystal allowing light waves to be guided. The switch can be manufactured using high precision, planar silicon wafer technology. It is an isotropic liquid crystal later sandwiched between wafers.
According to IMPS, the range of functions implemented on a switch can be extended to include interconnection, optical attenuation and modulation. They can be tailored to meet the specific needs of optical networks, remote sensing and laser technology applications.