Novel liquid-crystal devices are described that generate linearly polarized light with axial symmetry; the beam propagation axis is the symmetry axis. Such light fields can be characterized by a polarization order number P. For example, P = 1 fields represent radially or azimuthally polarized light. The reorientation of the polarization orientation in these polarization converters is due to the twisted nematic effect and the effect of λ/2 wave plates. A single polarization converter can generate fields of orders 1 and 2. It is shown that one can in principle generate fields of any integral order P by cascading such elements. Devices that generate P = 1 fields are achromatic and can be used as polarization axis finders or as versatile tools for studying birefringent or polarizing materials.
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