We demonstrate an optical axis grating (OAG) recorded in a nematic liquid crystal that yields a higher than 80% diffraction efficiency and over 800:1 switching contrast between diffraction orders for a laser beam of a red wavelength in a material layer only thick. The grating was used for combining two laser beams with high efficiency. These observations prove the feasibility of new generation high-efficiency diffractive optical components, which are most promising for infrared and high-power applications owing to their enhanced transparency and reduced thermal effects in thin material layers.
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