We describe a broadband achromatic half-wave retarder for normally incident light of arbitrary polarization. The device consists of a stack of one nematic liquid-crystal cell with uniform alignment sandwiched between two twisted nematic layers that have identical twist angles (135°) but different orientations of their surface alignment. As a specific application, for light with linear polarization at 45° to the optic axis of the homogeneous cell the stack functions efficiently as an optical switch. The switch rotates the incident linear polarization by 90° in the absence of an electric field. When sufficiently high voltage is applied to all three layers, the device produces a near-zero effect on the incident polarization. An achromatic response in the spectral range 400–700 nm is achieved for both activated and quiescent states.
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