Creation of Liquid Crystal Waveguides with Scanning Force Microscopy

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Science  22 Jul 1994:
Vol. 265, Issue 5171, pp. 512-514
DOI: 10.1126/science.265.5171.512


The rubbing of a polymer layer, a commonly applied process, leads to an anisotropic surface morphology, aligning liquid crystal molecules. Scanning force microscopy can be used to intentionally create areas with a similar anisotropy by operating the instrument at loads in the range of 10-7 to 10-5 newtons. These areas have an orientation effect on liquid crystals indistinguishable from the rubbing process, which allows a systematic investigation of the orientation properties of an alignment layer as a function of its nanometer-scale morphology. Refractive index patterns can be tailored with this method by scratching a suitable area, as demonstrated by fabrication of an optical waveguide 6 micrometers wide and 5 millimeters long.