NYU Chemists Among R&D Magazine Award Winners for Creation of Optical Evaluation Instrument

By James Devitt

R&D Magazine’s 51st annual R&D 100 Awards honor the 100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace over the past year. This year, NYU chemists made the magazine’s list for their creation of an instrument that evaluates the viability of optical displays in consumer and industrial products.

The device—the Exicor® 150XT 4-PEM Mueller Polarimeter—was developed with Oregon-based Hinds Instruments and can evaluate a range of products, including DVDs, laser crystals, and cell-phone display windows, by examining their optical properties. It is the creation of NYU chemistry professor Bart Kahr and former NYU post-doctoral Fellows John Freudenthal, now at Hinds Instruments, and Oriol Arteaga, now at the University of Barcelona, as well as Hinds Instruments scientist Baoliang Wang.

The NYU-Hinds technology uses a complex scheme to modulate and analyze the polarization of the light that is probing the sample. The information about the optical properties is deduced from the way the sample interacts with polarized light—much like the way polarizing sunglasses eliminate glare.

This approach has one primary advantage: accuracy. It can measure many optical properties of an object without any mechanical movements of optical components. In effect, the properties of interest are encoded by how the intensity of light passing through the instrument changes with time—instead of depending on the orientation of the sample with respect to the optical components of the instrument. This feature enhances the accuracy of the analysis because any physical changes in the optical path—i.e., moving the object in order to analyze it from different angles—can lead to misreadings of physical properties.

The work was supported by a National Science Foundation initiative, the Grant Opportunity for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI), which aims to generate transformative research by spurring university-industry partnerships.

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