Optical metasurfaces - planar nanostructured devices that can arbitrarily tailor the wavefront of light - may be reconfigured by changing their dielectric environment. The application of external stimuli to liquid crystals is a particularly promising means of tuning the optical properties of embedded metasurfaces because of liquid crystals' large and broadband optical anisotropy. However, the detailed behavior of liquid crystals immediately adjacent to the nanostructured meta-atoms elements is often overlooked, despite the optics of the device depending sensitively on this behavior (e.g., the spectral position of the meta-atom resonances). This is of increasing concern as the wavelength of operation further approaches the short-wavelength end of the visible spectrum and, therefore, the length scale of the inhomogeneities in the liquid crystal director field. In this manuscript, we undertake a fully comprehensive study, across the metasurface geometrical parameter space, of broadband (450-700 nm) all-dielectric liquid crystal tunable metasurfaces operating in the visible. Through combined experimental characterization, liquid crystal modeling, and optical simulations, we reveal and quantify the improved accuracy with which the optical properties of the liquid crystal tunable metasurfaces may be described, and identify the underlying physical mechanism: the three-dimensional spatial overlap of the liquid crystal director field and metasurface optical near fields in the vicinity of the meta-atoms.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering