Published. 2021, 10(8)
Non-mechanical beam steerers with lightweight, compact, high-efficiency, high-precision, and/or large-angle are pivotal for light detection and ranging (LiDAR) of autonomous vehicles, eye-tracking for near-eye displays, microscopy, optical tweezers, and high-precision three-dimensional (3D) printing. However, even the most matured optical phased array can only provide quasi-continuous, efficient beam steering within a small angle range. A telescope module with an angle magnification function can be coupled to enlarge the steering range or precision. But obtaining a compact, low-cost, lightweight, high-quality telescope module with conventional optics remains challenging. Patterned liquid crystal-based planar optical elements offer great design freedom for manipulating the phase profile of light in 2D space. Owing to the advantages of high efficiency, thinness, low cost, easy processing, flexibility, and response to environmental stimuli, a plethora of high-quality optical devices have been demonstrated. Here, a miniature planar telescope mediated by liquid crystal polymers is proposed to offer angle magnification independent of incident spatial location. It consists of two cascaded liquid crystal planar optical elements, each performing a predefined mathematical transformation. By this concept, planar optical elements are fabricated using a new exposure method and assembled into planar telescopes with different magnification factors. Within the incident field range, over 84.6% optical efficiency is achieved with small wavefront distortion. Such a miniature planar telescope shows the potential of cascaded liquid crystal planar optical elements for realizing functionalities that cannot be fulfilled by single optical elements, and enables lightweight, low loss, passive optical transmitters for widespread applications.