Reference : UV radiation effects on liquid crystal variable retarders for aerospace applications
Scientific congresses and symposiums : Unpublished conference/Abstract
Physical, chemical, mathematical & earth Sciences : Physics
UV radiation effects on liquid crystal variable retarders for aerospace applications
Garcia Parejo, Pilar []
Alvarez-Herrero, Alberto []
Uribe-Patarroyo, Nestor []
Lopez Heredero, Raquel []
Restrepo, René []
Georges, Marc mailto [Université de Liège - ULiège > > CSL (Centre Spatial de Liège) >]
24th International Liquid Crystal Conference (ILCC 2012)
19-24 Augustus 2012
Deutsche Flüssigkristall-Gesellschaft (DFKG)
[en] liquid crystal ; radiation effects
[en] Liquid-Crystal Variable Retarders (LCVRs)1 are optical devices that provide a variable optical retardance accomplished by the application of electric fields. Traditionally, they have been used as light polarization modulators for polarimetric applications in ground telescopes2, and more recently they took part in the polarisation modulation package of the Imaging Magnetograph eXperiment (IMaX)3, where the LCVRs were launched successfully on-board the Sunrise mission, a stratospheric balloon that was flown from Antarctica to study the solar magnetic fields. This mission was the precursor of the Solar Orbiter mission of the European Space Agency (ESA), where the liquid crystals will be used as polarisation modulators onboard a space mission for the first time in two instruments: the Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager (SO/PHI) and the Multi-Element Telescope for Imaging and Spectroscopy (METIS).
Any on-board element used for aerospace applications must be able to survive the harsh environmental space conditions including UV radiation, gamma radiation, vibrational tests, thermal-vacuum... In this sense, LCVRs have been recently validated to be used under the space conditions of the Solar Orbiter mission, in the framework of the ESA project: “Validation of LCVRs for the Solar Orbiter Polarisation Modulation Package”. In this project, a set of LCVRs with different design parameters has been analyzed under the different space environmental conditions. These design parameters include the architecture of the LCVR cell, using Anti-Parallel Aligned Nematic (APAN) and Hybrid Aligned Nematic (HAN) architectures, the type of liquid crystal molecules, using different commercial nematic liquid crystal mixtures with high and low birefringence and positive and negative dielectric anisotropy, different homogeneous and homeotropic polyimide alignment layers and different glass plates.
Among the space environmental components, the UV radiation needs special consideration due to the organic nature of the liquid crystal molecules and the alignment layers that consisted of rubbed polyimide layers. In this work, we present the main results of the UV radiation test campaign carried out in the LCVRs consisting of the performance of a thorough optical characterization of the LCVRs, including optical retardance and response times measurements at different voltages performed by the ellipsometry technique, and optical transmission measurements, before and after irradiating the LCVRs with UV light at different doses, in two different spectral ranges: 200 -400 nm and 160-200 nm.
The main degradation effects observed in the LCVRs was a progressive reduction of the retardance range of the LCVRs which points out a decrease of the birefringence of the liquid crystal molecules or the increase of the pretilt angle due to the degradation of the polyimide layers, and an increase of the response times of the cells. Nevertheless, the changes observed do not involve the destruction of the LCVRs and they keep fulfilling the requirements for the Solar Orbiter mission becoming in a promising technology for aerospace applications.
Agence spatiale européenne - ESA
Researchers ; Professionals

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