Abstract

In this work we study a prototype q-plate segmented tunable liquid crystal retarder device. It shows a large modulation range (5π rad for a wavelength of 633 nm and near 2π for 1550 nm) and a large clear aperture of one inch diameter. We analyze the operation of the q-plate in terms of Jones matrices and provide different matrix decompositions useful for its analysis, including the polarization transformations, the effect of the tunable phase shift, and the effect of quantization levels (the device is segmented in 12 angular sectors). We also show a very simple and robust optical system capable of generating all polarization states on the first-order Poincaré sphere. An optical polarization rotator and a linear retarder are used in a geometry that allows the generation of all states in the zero-order Poincaré sphere simply by tuning two retardance parameters. We then use this system with the q-plate device to directly map an input arbitrary state of polarization to a corresponding first-order vectorial beam. This optical system would be more practical for high speed and programmable generation of vector beams than other systems reported so far. Experimental results are presented.

© 2015 Optical Society of America

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