Abstract

We present a polymeric optical phase retarder that is electrically tunable by a dielectric elastomer actuator. The soft material device affords a large tuning range (14π at λ=488nm) combined with high accuracy in optical path length and low drift rate (8.3nmmin). Furthermore, the phase retarder is not sensitive to polarization, introduces a wavefront distortion <λ30, and tolerates high power densities (>141kWcm2). We show the dynamics for periodic phase modulation and demonstrate a simple drive technique for fast phase stepping. The polymer-based device is inexpensive, easy to fabricate, and its design can be adapted to specific applications.

© 2009 Optical Society of America

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