See-through augmented reality and virtual reality displays are emerging due to their widespread applications in education, engineering design, medical, retail, transportation, automotive, aerospace, gaming, and entertainment. For augmented reality and virtual reality displays, high-resolution density, high luminance, fast response time and high ambient contrast ratio are critically needed. High-resolution density helps eliminate the screen-door effect, high luminance and fast response time enable low duty ratio operation, which plays a key role for suppressing image blurs. A dimmer placed in front of AR display helps to control the incident background light, which in turn improves the image contrast. In this dissertation, we have focused three crucial display metrics: high luminance, fast motion picture response time (MPRT) and high ambient contrast ratio. We report a fringe-field switching liquid crystal display, abbreviated as d-FFS LCD, by using a low viscosity material and new diamond-shape electrode configuration. Our proposed device shows high transmittance, fast motion picture response time, low operation voltage, wide viewing angle, and indistinguishable color shift and gamma shift. We also investigate the rubbing angle effects on transmittance and response time. When rubbing angle is 0 degree, the virtual wall effect is strong, resulting in fast response time but compromised transmittance. When rubbing angle is greater than 1.2 degree, the virtual walls disappear, as a result, the transmittance increases dramatically, but the tradeoff is in slower response time. We also demonstrate a photo-responsive guest-host liquid crystal (LC) dimmer to enhance the ambient contrast ratio in augmented reality displays. The LC composition consists of photo-stable chiral agent, photosensitive azobenzene, and dichroic dye in a nematic host with negative dielectric anisotropy. In this device, transmittance changes from bright state to dark state by exposing a low intensity UV or blue light. Reversal process can be carried out by red light or thermal effect. Such a polarizer-free photo-activated dimmer can also be used for wide range of applications, such as diffractive photonic devices, portable information system, vehicular head-up displays, and smart window for energy saving purpose. A dual-stimuli polarizer-free dye-doped liquid crystal (LC) device is demonstrated as a dimmer. Upon UV/blue light exposure, the LC directors and dye molecules turn from initially vertical alignment (high transmittance state) to twisted fingerprint structure (low transmittance state). The reversal process is accelerated by combining a longitudinal electric field to unwind the LC directors from twisted fingerprint to homeotropic state, and a red light to transform the cis azobenzene back to trans. Such an electric-field-assisted reversal time can be reduced from ~10s to a few milliseconds, depending on the applied voltage. Considering power consumption, low manufacturing cost, and large fabrication tolerance, this device can be used as a smart dimmer to enhance the ambient contrast ratio for augmented reality displays.


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Graduation Date





Wu, Shintson


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Optics and Photonics


Optics and Photonics

Degree Program

Optics and Photonics









Release Date

August 2019

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)