In close collaboration with four German universities, we have developed tutorials for experiments based on a transmissive liquid-crystal spatial light modulator (SLM). The experimental tutorials are grouped in six project modules, which cover a wide range of phenomena and have different levels of difficulty. At a basic level, students can investigate the SLM in its probably most well-known application as an image-generating element in a simple optical projector setup. At more advanced levels, the application as an adaptive optical element can be investigated in three different projects covering wave-optical phenomena. The fields covered include Fourier Optics using the SLM as a dynamic fan-out beam-splitter or kinoform, Computer-Generated Holography and basic Interferometry. For the support of these projects, software was developed which permits the generation of adaptive optical structures by the student with a user-friendly interface, while the underlying algorithms are explained in the theoretical tutorial. The modulation of the light by the twisted nematic liquid crystal cells of the SLM can be investigated in the two most advanced projects. In the first one, the parameters of the cell and the components of its Jones matrix can be derived from transmission measurements with rotatable polarizers at a number of different wavelengths. This project gives insight to the Jones matrix calculus at the level required for the analysis. In the second one, the complex-valued transmission of the SLM is determined by measuring the diffraction efficiency of dynamically addressed Ronchi gratings.

© 2009 Optical Society of America

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