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Opt Express. 2009 Feb 2;17(3):1902-18.

Optical Vectorial Vortex Coronagraphs using Liquid Crystal Polymers: theory, manufacturing and laboratory demonstration.

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Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA.


In this paper, after briefly reviewing the theory of vectorial vortices, we describe our technological approach to generating the necessary phase helix, and report results obtained with the first optical vectorial vortex coronagraph (OVVC) in the laboratory. To implement the geometrical phase ramp, we make use of Liquid Crystal Polymers (LCP), which we believe to be the most efficient technological path to quickly synthesize optical vectorial vortices of virtually any topological charge. With the first prototype device of topological charge 2, a maximum peak-to-peak attenuation of 1.4x10(-2) and a residual light level of 3x10(-5) at an angular separation of 3.5 lambda/d (at which point our current noise floor is reached) have been obtained at a wavelength of 1.55 microm. These results demonstrate the validity of using space-variant birefringence distributions to generate a new family of coronagraphs usable in natural unpolarized light, opening a path to high performance coronagraphs that are achromatic and have low-sensitivity to low-order wavefront aberrations.

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