Inge Nys wins Facebook Reality Labs Liquid Crystal Research Diamonds Award

(29-09-2020) Inge Nys won the Facebook Reality Labs Crystal Reseach Diamond Award.

Inge Nys won the Facebook Reality Labs Crystal Research Diamond Award with her submission 'Tilted chiral liquid crystal gratings for efficient large-angle diffraction'. The diamond award is the highest award for which she receives 5000 dollars. 

About her research

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. Our work focusses 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.

Inge Nys, postdoctoral researcher in the LCP group (ELIS department) at the University of Ghent, received the diamond award for her publication 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.

Inge Nys nog kleiner

In the publication it was 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!

Watch a short movie about her research

About this award

This past May Facebook launched the Facebook Reality Labs Liquid Crystal (LC) research awards with the goal of encouraging young generations in the LC field and in other cross-disciplinary fields to explore the possibilities of LC technology in the AR/VR field. In partnership with the International Liquid Crystal Society, they invited graduate students and postdocs (who have graduated in the last three years) to apply for this award.

Facebook received applications from 14 research institutions. The submitted applications covered emerging research in the following areas: novel liquid crystal materials, fast response time liquid crystal displays, polarization holograms, Pancharatnam Berry Phase optics, polarization optics, and applications of LC technologies for improving AR/VR optics and display systems.

Taking into consideration the originality and novelty of the resulting research, along with its potential impact in the AR/VR field, Facebook selected six extraordinary researchers from six different institutions. 

More about this award