Flakes or platelets of polymer liquid crystals (PLC) or other birefringent polymers (BP) suspended in a fluid host medium constitute a system that can function as the active element in an electrically switchable optical device when the suspension is either contained between a pair of rigid substrates bearing transparent conductive coatings or dispersed as microcapsules within the body of a flexible host polymer. Optical properties of these flake materials include large effective optical path length, different polarization states and high angular sensitivity in their selective reflection or birefringence. The flakes or platelets of these devices need only a 3-20.degree. rotation about the normal to the cell surface to achieve switching characteristics obtainable with prior devices using particle rotation or translation.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract DE-FC03-93SF19460 between the University of Rochester and the Department of Energy, Office of Inertial Confinement Fusion.