Group conducts research on optical materials for high
power lasers, optical applications of liquid crystals, and novel
optics manufacturing processes. Our research group is very
interdisciplinary, consisting of a liquid crystal chemist,
optical engineers and physicists, chemical engineers, and students (undergraduate
and graduate) from The Institute of Optics, the Materials Science
Program, and the Department of Chemical Engineering. We carry
out our research in a number of laboratories on the University's
South Campus under the auspices of the Laboratory
for Laser Energetics.
the early '80's, we started to explore applications of liquid crystals
in high peak power lasers. We were the first to develop and utilize
large aperture, laser damage resistant, low molecular weight liquid
crystal devices as circular polarizers and waveplates. Over 300
liquid crystal optics to 200 mm in diameter are used for polarization
control in the OMEGA Nd: glass laser system at the Laboratory
for Laser Energetics (LLE). This system is currently the largest,
university-based high peak power laser for fusion research in the world. New passive lc optics research activities center around concepts for distributed polarization rotators and studies to understand anchoring at lc/substrate interfaces from novel surface treatments. Electro-optic
devices such as variable apodizers and shutter/choppers have been
subjects of study by our group, and we are currently investigating
the electro-optic effects of photoaligned liquid crystal laser beam shapers.
the '90's, the group began to concentrate some of its efforts on
the science of optical glass polishing. This work was aggressively
carried out at the Center
for Optics Manufacturing (COM) within the LLE, and it contiues to be a topic of study. By replacing
the conventional aqueous based cerium oxide slurry/pitch lap with
a magnetic fluid lap, the group co-invented and helped to commercialize
a process called magnetorheological
finishing (MRF). A spin-off from COM, QED
Technologies, Inc., in Rochester, NY, has successfully commercialized
MRF and has placed its line of finishing systems throughout the
In 2010 the group was asked to direct its efforts toward increasing the laser damage resistance of diffractive optics subjected to 10-ps 1054-nm laser radiation from the OMEGA EP laser at LLE.Extensive research on surface cleaning techniques with small samples were performed and these resulted showed how laser damage thresholds could be significantly increased. Results were recently published in Applied Optics, Vol. 52, pp. 1682-1692 (March 2013 and Applied Optics, Vol.52, pp. 7689-7698 (November 2013).
In 2012 the group began research on the properties of distributed polarization rotators (DPRs) employing optical rotatory power in cholesteric liquid crystals. Their intended application at high short-pulse-length laser energies in the UV place numerous materials properties requirements on this new type of passive optical element. Results were recently published in SPIE Proceedings: Conference 8828: Liquid Crystals XVII (paper #6-invited), SPIE Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA, 08-25-2013.