We analyze the optical behavior of two-dimensionally periodic structures that occur in electrohydrodynamic convection (EHC) patterns in nematic sandwich cells. These structures are anisotropic, locally uniaxial, and periodic on the scale of micrometers. For the first time, the optics of these structures is investigated with a rigorous method. The method used for the description of the electromagnetic waves interacting with EHC director patterns is a numerical approach that discretizes directly the Maxwell equations. It works as a space-grid–time-domain method and computes electric and magnetic fields in time steps. This so-called finite-difference–time-domain (FDTD) method is able to generate the fields with arbitrary accuracy. We compare this rigorous method with earlier attempts based on ray-tracing and analytical approximations. Results of optical studies of EHC structures made earlier based on ray-tracing methods are confirmed for thin cells, when the spatial periods of the pattern are sufficiently large. For the treatment of small-scale convection structures, the FDTD method is without alternatives.
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