We review our theoretical and experimental studies on a class of liquid crystal (LC) photonic devices, i.e., terahertz (THz) phase gratings and beam steerers by using LCs. Such gratings can function as a THz polarizer and tunable THz beam splitters. The beam splitting ratio of the zeroth-order diffraction to the first-order diffraction by the grating can be tuned from 10:1 to 3:5. Gratings with two different base dimensions were prepared. The insertion loss is lower by approximately 2.5 dB for the one with the smaller base. The response times of the gratings were also studied and were long (tens of seconds) as expected because of the thick LC layer used. Accordingly, the devices are not suitable for applications that require fast modulation. However, they are suitable for instrumentation or apparatuses that require precise control, e.g., an apparatus requiring a fixed beam splitting ratio with occasional fine tuning. Schemes for speeding up the device responses were proposed. Based on the grating structure, we also achieved an electrically tunable THz beam steerer. Broadband THz radiation can be steered by 8.5° with respect to the incident beam by varying the driving voltages to yield the designed phase gradient.
Part of the book: Liquid Crystals