Inge Nys wins Facebook Reality Labs Liquid Crystal Research Diamonds Award - Ghent University

Inge Nys FB award

Inge Nys FB award

She received the highest award in the Facebook Reality Labs Liquid Crystal Research competition.

Inge Nys, postdoctoral researcher in the LCP group (ELIS department) at the University of Ghent, recently received the diamond award  with her submission ’ Tilted chiral liquid crystal gratings for efficient large-angle diffraction ’  in the international journal Advanced Optical Materials. This international price of 5000 $ is the highest recognition awarded in the Facebook Reality Labs Liquid Crystal Research competition.

Liquid chrystal

Miniaturized optical components are essential for optical communication, electronic displays and virtual reality. Making optical components with nanometer-scale resolution is challenging and often requires high technology equipment. The focus lies on optical structures that are realized with the help of a simple surface treatment and a cheap production process. This is possible by making use of so-called liquid crystal, a material with molecules that self-organize into structures with nanometer-scale resolution.

Liquid crystal is an organic material that is liquid but also contains a certain degree of ordering. The molecules are elongated, which gives rise to interesting light interaction. Moreover, they can spontaneously organize themselves into complex structures. Liquid crystal is currently used on a large scale in commercial displays (LCDs)  but also has huge potential for other applications. This research is focused on optical components with a thickness of only 0.01 mm that can efficiently manipulate light. This can be used to make lenses or mirrors that systematically reflect light in a certain direction. The components are not only thin but their fabrication is also cheap and they can be easily integrated into all kinds of systems. This makes them very suitable for head-up displays and augmented reality glasses.

Tilted Chiral Liquid Crystal Gratings for Efficient Large-Angle Diffraction

The publication investigated how the alignment of the elongated molecules at the surfaces can steer the self-organization of a complex 3D liquid crystal structure in the bulk. The liquid crystal layer can reflect circularly polarized light over an angle of more than 45° with an efficiency of almost 90%. The liquid crystal structure was investigated with the microscope and by analyzing the interaction with laser light. The experimental results were compared to numerical calculations. The insights that are gathered in this way, are indispensable for the further optimization of these optical components. This pushes forward the development of augmented reality glasses with high-performance, so that the advantages of this technology will hopefully become available soon in our daily lives!

Facebook Reality Labs (FRL)

Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) brings together a world-class team of researchers, developers, and engineers to create the future of virtual and augmented reality, which together will become as universal and essential as smartphones and personal computers are today. And just as personal computers have done over the past 45 years, AR and VR will ultimately change everything about how we work, play, and connect.

Liquid Crystal (LC) research is one of several research areas in the AR and VR Optics and Display group in FRL. The goal of the LC research is to develop advanced LC optics and display technologies and to integrate them with existing and emerging AR/VR optical and display solutions. The aim is to provide better user experience, enable breakthroughs in the AR/VR optical design space, and help pave the way to AR glasses and next-generation VR headsets.

FRL Liquid Crystal Research Awards

The aim of the FRL Liquid Crystal Research Awards is to encourage young generations in the LC field and in other cross-disciplinary fields to explore the possibilities of LC technology in the AR/VR field. FRL is pleased to invite researchers, graduate students, and postdocs (who have graduated in the last three years), with research experience in the liquid crystal field, to apply for this award.

In order to support academic work that addresses our challenges and opportunities while producing generalizable knowledge, FRL is pleased to offer six research awards. The awards include one Diamond Award of $5000, two Platinum Awards of $3500, and three Gold Awards of $2500.

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