Nematic liquid crystals possess large and versatile optical nonlinearities suitable for photonics applications spanning the femtoseconds to milliseconds time scales, and across a wide spectral window. We present a comprehensive review of the physical properties and mechanisms that underlie these multiple time scales nonlinearities, delving into individual molecular electronic responses as well as collective ordered-phase dynamical processes. Several exemplary theoretical formalisms and feasibility demonstrations of ultrafast all-optical transmission switching and tunable metamaterials and plasmonic photonic structures where the liquid crystal constituents play the critical role of enabling the processes are discussed. Emphasis is placed on all-optical processes, but we have also highlighted cases where electro-optical means could provide additional control, flexibility and enhancement possibility. We also point out how another phase of chiral nematic, namely, Blue-Phase liquid crystals could circumvent some of the limitations of nematic and present new possibilities.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering