Uniaxial optical anisotropy in the geometrical-optics approach is a classical problem, and most of the theory has been known for at least fifty years. Although the subject appears frequently in the literature, wave propagation through inhomogeneous anisotropic media is rarely addressed. The rapid advances in liquid-crystal lenses call for a good overview of the theory on wave propagation via anisotropic media. Therefore, we present a novel polarized ray-tracing method, which can be applied to anisotropic optical systems that contain inhomogeneous liquid crystals. We describe the propagation of rays in the bulk material of inhomogeneous anisotropic media in three dimensions. In addition, we discuss ray refraction, ray reflection, and energy transfer at, in general, curved anisotropic interfaces with arbitrary orientation and/or arbitrary anisotropic properties. The method presented is a clear outline of how to assess the optical properties of uniaxially anisotropic media.
© 2008 Optical Society of AmericaPDF Article