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Title:
WIRE GRID POLARIZER AND METHOD OF MANUFACTURE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2015/120335
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A polarizing optical article formed by selectively applying a conductive coating to a portion of a structured surface formed of a series of linear peaks and valleys.

Inventors:
BLACKER, Richard (10 Poplar Lane, North Oaks, Minnesota, 55127, US)
OLUND, David (3105 385th Avenue NW, Stanchfield, Minnesota, 55080, US)
Application Number:
US2015/014920
Publication Date:
August 13, 2015
Filing Date:
February 06, 2015
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
INSIGHT EQUITY A.P.X., L.P. (DBA VISION-EASE LENS) (7000 Sunwood Drive NW, Ramsey, Minnesota, 55303, US)
International Classes:
G02C3/00
Foreign References:
US20070087549A12007-04-19
US20070252293A12007-11-01
US20060262398A12006-11-23
US20120168065A12012-07-05
US20110084424A12011-04-14
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SWANSON, Shane S., Esq. (Inskeep Intellectual Property Group, Inc2281 W. 190th Street, Suite 20, Torrance California, 90504, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1 . A method for forming a polarizer comprising:

forming a linear structured surface on an optical article; and

coating less than an entirety of the linear structured surface with a conductive coating so as to form substantially distinct individual wires on the optical article.

2. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of forming a linear structured surface on an optical article comprises molding the optical article against a mold surface having a linear structure formed thereon.

3. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of forming a linear structured surface on an optical article comprises casting the optical article against a surface having a linear structure formed thereon.

4. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of forming a linear structured surface on an optical article comprises machining the linear structured surface directly on to a surface of the optical article.

5. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of forming a linear structured surface on an optical article comprises forming the linear structured surface on a surface of a finished optical lens.

6. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of forming a linear structured surface on an optical article comprises forming the linear structured surface on a surface of a film.

7. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of forming a linear structured surface on an optical article comprises forming the linear structured surface during injection molding of the optical article.

8. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of forming a linear structured surface on an optical article comprises forming a series of peaks and valleys having a pitch in a range of 150 to 300 nanometers.

9. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of forming a linear structured surface on an optical article comprises forming a plurality of different linear structured regions on the optical article.

10. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of coating less than an entirety of the linear structured surface with a conductive coating so as to form substantially distinct individual wires on the optical article comprises coating only a portion of a tip of a plurality of peaks of the linear structured surface.

1 1 . The method of claim 1 wherein the step of coating less than an entirety of the linear structured surface with a conductive coating so as to form substantially distinct individual wires on the optical article comprises coating from an angle relative to a best fit line through the surface of the optical article that is greater than zero and less than 90 degrees.

12. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of coating less than an entirety of the linear structured surface with a conductive coating so as to form substantially distinct individual wires on the optical article comprises coating a reflective conductive coating.

13. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of coating less than an entirety of the linear structured surface with a conductive coating so as to form substantially distinct individual wires on the optical article comprises coating a non-reflective conductive coating.

14. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of coating less than an entirety of the linear structured surface with a conductive coating so as to form substantially distinct individual wires on the optical article comprises coating a transparent conductive coating.

15. A method for forming a polarized ophthalmic article comprising:

forming a linear pattern of peaks and valleys on a surface of an ophthalmic article; coating the surface of the ophthalmic article with a conductive coating from an angle relative to a best fit line through the surface of the ophthalmic article that is greater than zero and less than 90 degrees; and

forming a plurality of conductive wires across at least a portion of the surface of the ophthalmic article through said coating.

16. The method of claim 15 wherein the step of forming a linear pattern of peaks and valleys on a surface of an ophthalmic article comprises molding the linear pattern of peaks and valleys on the surface of the ophthalmic article.

17. The method of claim 15 wherein the step of coating the surface of the ophthalmic article with a conductive coating from an angle relative to a best fit line through the surface of the ophthalmic article that is greater than zero and less than 90 degrees comprises coating only a portion of a tip of a peak of the linear pattern of peaks and valleys.

18. A molded polarized ophthalmic lens comprising:

a lens having a first and second surface through which a lens user looks;

a substantially uniform linear series of peaks and valleys formed on one of said first and second surfaces; and

a conductive coating applied to less than an entirety of the series of peaks and valleys so as to form a series of conductive wires on said one of said first and second surfaces of said lens.

19. The lens of claim 18 wherein the substantially uniform linear series of peaks and valleys is molded into one of said first and second surfaces.

20. The lens of claim 18 wherein the conductive coating is applied to only a portion of a tip of a peak of the substantially uniform linear series of peaks and valleys.

Description:
WIRE GRID POLARIZER AND METHOD OF MANUFACTURE

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 61/936,831 filed February 6, 2014, entitled Wire Grid Polarizer and Method of Manufacture, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention is directed to devices and methods of manufacturing devices for polarizing light and, more particularly, devices employing wire grid polarizers.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Polarizing functionality for optical lenses is required to be transmissive by virtue of the application and is typically provided by use of a stretched polyester or polyvinyl alcohol, PVA, film that is subsequently imbibed with a conductive material such as iodine or suitable organic dye. Such stretched film polarizing sheets can have up to 99.9 percent polarizing efficiency. However, at such high levels of efficiency, the optical transmission is typically reduced to a level close to 20 percent. The application space of ophthalmic lenses requires that the polarizing film material is entrained within the lens package itself.

[0003] An alternative technology to stretched film is wire grid polarizers, WGP. Wire grid polarizers have typically only been used for relatively long wavelength applications such as microwave, infrared, IR, and longer wavelengths because the wires available for employing in the polarizers have been too large to be effective to polarize the shorter wavelengths, such as wavelengths within the visible spectrum, e.g. approximates 390 to 700 nanometers. In order to enable visible light polarization, the spacing of wires in a wire grid polarizers needs to be below the wavelength of visible light, and preferably significantly below the lowest wavelength, for example 200 nanometers.

[0004] Hence, there exist a need in the field for wire grid polarizers that are operable to efficiently polarize the relatively shorter wavelengths in the visible light spectrum. OBJECTS AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0005] The present invention provides wire grid polarizers that are operable to efficiently polarize the relatively shorter wavelengths in the visible light spectrum. These objectives are achieved, in part, by providing a lens having a first and second surface through which a lens user looks, a substantially uniform linear series of peaks and valleys formed on one of said first and second surfaces, and a conductive coating applied to less than an entirety of the series of peaks and valleys so as to form a series of conductive wires across said one of said first and second surfaces of said lens. In certain embodiments, a substantially uniform linear series of peaks and valleys is molded into one of said first and second surfaces. In certain embodiments, the conductive coating is applied to only a portion of a tip of the peaks of the substantially uniform linear series of peaks and valleys.

[0006] The present invention also provides methods for making wire grid polarizers that are operable to efficiently polarize relatively shorter wavelengths in the visible light spectrum. The method includes, in part, the steps of forming a linear structured surface on an optical article and coating less than an entirety of the linear structured surface with a conductive coating so as to form substantially distinct individual wires on the optical article.

[0007] Alternatively, methods according to the present invention include, in part, forming a linear pattern of peaks and valleys on a surface of an ophthalmic article and coating the surface of the ophthalmic article with a conductive coating from an angle relative to a best fit line through the surface of the ophthalmic article that is greater than zero and less than 90 degrees; and forming a plurality of conductive wires across at least a portion of the surface of the ophthalmic article through said coating.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0008] These and other aspects, features and advantages of which embodiments of the invention are capable of will be apparent and elucidated from the following description of embodiments of the present invention, reference being made to the accompanying drawings, in which [0009] Fig. 1 is a micrograph of a surface structure of an ophthalmic article according to certain embodiments of the present invention.

[0010] Fig. 2 is a cross-section of a surface structure of an ophthalmic article according to certain embodiments of the present invention.

[0011] Fig. 3A is a plan view of an ophthalmic article according to certain embodiments of the present invention.

[0012] Fig. 3B is an elevation view of an ophthalmic article according to certain embodiments of the present invention.

[0013] Fig. 4 is a perspective view of an ophthalmic article according to certain embodiments of the present invention.

[0014] Fig. 5 is a perspective view of an ophthalmic article according to certain embodiments of the present invention.

[0015] Fig. 6 is a plan view of a surface structure of an ophthalmic article according to certain embodiments of the present invention.

[0016] Fig. 7 is a plan view of a surface structure of an ophthalmic article according to certain embodiments of the present invention.

[0017] Fig. 8 is a cross-sectional view of a surface structure of an ophthalmic article according to certain embodiments of the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

[0018] Specific embodiments of the invention will now be described with reference to the accompanying drawings. This invention may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein; rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will be thorough and complete, and will fully convey the scope of the invention to those skilled in the art. The terminology used in the detailed description of the embodiments illustrated in the accompanying drawings is not intended to be limiting of the invention. In the drawings, like numbers refer to like elements. [0019] Broadly speaking, the present invention achieves the formation of wire grid polarizers that polarize electromagnetic radiation in a range of wavelengths that is within the visible spectrum, e.g. approximately 390 to 700 nanometers. This objective is achieved by first forming a structured surface on an ophthalmic or optical article, such as a lens, a film, or a film laminate. The structured surface may employ a system of linear patterns or features, such as peaks and valleys, ranging in the scale of nanometers to hundreds of nanometers.

[0020] While an optical article employing such a structured surface shows a moderate level of visible light polarization, polarization increases greatly by selectively coating the structured surface with a conductive coating. The structured surface is selectively coated with a conductive layer such that the structured surface of the optical article allows for only certain portions of the structured surface of the article, for example a portion of a side of the peaks or a portion of the tip of the peaks, to receive the coating. The selectively coated portions of the structured surface thereby form a series of linear wires on the surface of the optical article that function as a wire grid polarizer.

[0021] In certain embodiments of the present invention, the surface upon which the inventive wire grid polarizer is formed is a front or back surface of an unfinished, single or multifocal optical lens puck or a front or back surface of a finished, single or multifocal optical lens.

[0022] In certain embodiments of the present invention, the desired surface structure is formed on the optical article during the casting or injection molding process. For example, a mold, such as a metal mold, employed during the lens formation process may have the desired structure formed on a surface upon which or against which the optical article will be formed. The surface structure may be formed on the mold by, for example, machining the mold with a diamond machining tip. By employing a relatively coarse diamond tip, for example a tip with a radius of curvature of 5 micrometers and a 35 degree tip angle, a structure having a distance between the peaks of linear features or cuts, i.e. a pitch, in the range of micrometers, for example 3 micrometers, can be formed. By employing a relatively fine diamond tip, for example a tip with a radius of curvature of 1 micrometer and a 25 degree tip angle, a pitch in the range of hundreds of nanometers can be formed. According to certain embodiments of the present invention surface structure in the range of 150 to 1000 nanometers is achieved, preferably in the range of 150 to 700 nanometers is achieved, and more preferably in the range of 150 to 200 nanometers is achieved. Such machined optical molds may be referred to as directly tuned metal optical components.

[0023] When an optical article is formed in a mold cavity having a surface structure such as described above, the lens substrate, for example a polycarbonate resin, conforms to the structured surface of the mold. Hence, when the optical article is removed from the mold, the surface of the optical article that was formed upon the structured surface of the mold will have a surface structure substantially identical to the surface structure of the mold cavity or to a reciprocal structure of the surface structure of the mold cavity.

[0024] For example, a molded polycarbonate lens fabricated at a molding temperature in the range of 250 to 350 degrees Celsius, for example 295 degrees Celsius, in a metal mold having a linear patterned surface structure will surprisingly have a structured surface with a high degree of fidelity with the structured surface of the mold in which it was formed.

[0025] Fig. 1 is an image of a micrograph of a portion of an optical article molded in a metal mold cavity having a linear patterned surface structure. The linear pattern of the surface structure of the mold was formed with a pitch of approximately 6 micrometers. As shown in Fig. 1 , the surface of the optical article formed against the structured surface of this mold also has a linear patterned surface structure. Fig. 2 is a surface profile of a portion of the same structured surface of the optical article that was formed against the structured surface of this structured surface mold.

[0026] In certain embodiments of the present invention, the desired surface structure is formed directly into a front or back surface of a finished lens, non-finished lens, or blank lens puck. For example, the above disclosed diamond cutting technique may be employed for the direct surfacing or structuring of a surface of a formed lens or puck, e.g. a polycarbonate lens or puck.

[0027] Figs. 3A and 3B are plan and elevation views, respectively, of a finished or semi-finished lens 10, according to certain embodiments of the present invention, having a front side 12 and a back side 14. The lens 10 employs a surface structure 16 on the front surface 12 that was formed either during the lens molding process or as a result of direct surfacing of the front side 12. For the sake of clarity, the linear features of the surface structure 16 are shown as if magnified and are not shown to scale relative to the actual dimensions of the lens.

[0028] In certain embodiments of the present invention, the desired surface structure is formed on a surface of a thin film or a thin film laminate, for example a functional laminate such as a photochromic laminate. The structured surface may, for example, be formed on the film or film laminate by ruling or other suitable techniques. The surface structured film or film laminate can then be employed alone to form a polarizing optical article having the inventive wire grid polarizer or can be molded through injection molding or casting to form laminate lenses, for example a single or multifocal ophthalmic lens. Fig. 4 shows a film 20 according to certain embodiments of the present invention, having a front side 22 and a back side 24. The film 20 employs a surface structure 16 on the front surface 22 that was formed either during formation of the film 20 or as a result of direct surfacing of the film 20. For the sake of clarity, the linear features of the surface structure 16 are shown as if magnified and are not shown to scale relative to the actual dimensions of the lens.

[0029] Fig. 5 shows a film laminate 30 according to certain embodiments of the present invention, having a front side 32 and a back side 34 and laminated layers 38A, 38B, and 38C. The film laminate 30 employs a surface structure 16 on the front surface 32 that was formed either during formation of the laminate layer 38A; as a result of direct surfacing of the laminate layer 38A, prior to formation of the film laminate 30; or as a result of the direct surfacing of the front side 32 of film laminate, after formation of film laminate 30, i.e. as a result of direct surfacing of the front side 32 after the formation process of the laminate 30 (e.g. surfacing or patterning the front side 32 in the form of a polycarbonate sheet). For the sake of clarity, the linear features of the surface structure 16 are shown as if magnified and are not shown to scale relative to the actual dimensions of the lens.

[0030] In certain embodiments of the present invention, the structured surface that will ultimately be employed to form the inventive wire grid polarizer, employs a structured pattern that, once selectively coated as described below, will have different regions that polarize light in different orientations. For example, as shown in Fig. 6, the surface structure 16 may employ linear structure in a first region 16A and linear structure in a second region 16B that is oriented at a non-zero degree angle 18 relative to the linear structure in the first region 16A.

[0031] With reference to Fig. 7, in certain embodiments of the present invention, the structured surface that will ultimately be employed to form the inventive wire grid polarizer, employs a linear structured pattern of concentric circles 16C. The polarization of the optical article employing such a surface structure will have some directionality associated with it depending on which direction the wearer is looking through the optical article. For example, if the concentric circles are centered on a pupil of a user, looking straight ahead will have an averaged polarization state of substantially zero, looking up or down will be polarized substantially horizontally, and looking left or right will be polarized substantially vertically.

[0032] In certain embodiments of the present invention, the same or different surface structure patterns may be combined in a single, contiguous region or may be employed in separate discontinuous structured regions on the surface of the optical article. Stated alternatively, in optical article employing multiple polarizing regions according to the present invention, the different regions may be formed in disperse regions of the article and need not contact or abut one another.

[0033] In order to from the "wires" of the inventive wire grid polarizer, the structured surface is selectively coated with a conductive layer or coating. The conductive coating may be applied or coated by, for example, employing spray or sputter coating/deposition techniques, e.g. physical vapor deposition.

[0034] The term "selective" is intended to mean that the final result of the coating process results in only certain portions of the structured surface being coated. For example, only portions of the sides of the peaks or tips of the peaks of the structured surface will ultimately be coated with the conducting layer. In effect, the selective coating process forms a series of distinct or discrete wires at a spatial frequency, pitch, or separation in the order of nanometers that is effective at polarizing wavelengths in the visible light spectrum.

[0035] In certain embodiments of the present invention, the wires thus formed are distinct or discrete wires or substantially distinct or discrete wires. Alternatively stated, due the imperfections in, for example, the structuring process and/or the conductive coating process, the conductive wires formed may contact one or more adjacent wires on occasion. Hence, the term "substantially distinct" is intended to mean the majority of the linear dimension of the wires formed are independent of one another.

[0036] In certain embodiments, as shown in Fig. 8, selective coating or metallization is achieved by spraying or applying coating 40 to a portion of a peak 6 of structured surface 16. The selective coating is achieved, for example, by applying the coating from a direction, indicated by arrow 46, which forms an angle 44 that is non-zero degree and less than 90 degrees to a best fit line or plane 42 of the structured surface 16. Application of the coating 40 from direction 46 results in only a portion of the surface structure 16 being coated, because the undulating topography of the surface structure 16 blocks or shadows portions of the surface structure 16 from the direct line of sight or coating of direction 46. Due to the linear nature of the surface structure 16, the coating or coated areas 40 continue substantially the entire length of the linear structure 16, thereby forming substantially continuous conductive wires on the surface structure 16.

[0037] In certain embodiments of the present invention, once the lens has been formed with a structured or patterned surface mold and the wires generated, additional coatings, for example hard coatings and/or anti-reflective coatings, can be applied to the structured surface so as to embed the wire grid polarizer and provide physical and environmental protection for the polarizer.

[0038] In certain embodiments of the present invention, the reflectivity, transmission, and polarizing efficiency of the wire grid polarizer according to the present invention can be tuned or optimized by manipulating the pitch of the peaks of the structured surface and the angle 44 employed to selectively form the coating 40.

[0039] In certain embodiments of the present invention, the inventive wire grid polarizer forms a graded polarizer across a portion or all of an optical article, film, or film laminate. For example, from the perspective of a user, from a top to a bottom of an optical article the inventive wire grid polarizer may vary such that the upper portion of the lens has a higher polarizing efficiency than a lower portion of the optical article. This embodiment may be advantageous, for example, when a user is driving a vehicle. While viewing at a distance through the upper portion of the optical article there is a high degree of polarization. However, when viewing closer objects, for example digital readouts or LCD screens within the cockpit of the vehicle, through the lower portion of the optical article, there is little or no polarization that interferes with the viewing of such devices.

[0040] In certain embodiments of the present invention, the conducting coating employed to form the wire grid polarizer is a reflective metal-type coating. For example, the reflective conductor layer or coating may employ conductive metals such as gold, aluminum, copper, niobium, chromium, tin, or similar metals. The conductive, reflective layer may form part of a multilayer structure or a more complex coating such as an enhanced mirror or a low-e coating, for example a coating in which silver is buried in the middle of many other layers that serve to protect the metal and also provide aesthetic features. In certain embodiments, an anti-reflective coating is applied over the conductive, reflective coating so as to decrease or eliminate the reflective nature of the conductive, reflective coating.

[0041] In certain embodiments of the present invention, the conducting coating employed to form the inventive wire grid polarizer is a non-reflective conductor layer. For example, the non-reflective conductor layer may employ a metal-containing suboxide, multilayer stacks of metal-containing suboxides, or metal layers embedded within oxide or sub oxide layer stacks. The non-reflective conductive coating can be, for example, in the form of a low-e coating in which a metal suboxide such as chrome suboxide or nickel chrome suboxide is employed. The non-reflective conductive coating may be embedded in non-reflective or absorptive outer layers to enhance the non-reflective characteristics. Alternatively, such non-reflective or absorptive outer layers may be oriented below, on top or both on top and below of the non-reflective conductive layer to yield different visual cosmetic effects.

[0042] In certain embodiments of the present invention, the conducting coating employed to form the inventive wire grid polarizer is a transparent conductive layer. For example, the transparent conductor layer or coating may employ a transparent conductive coating or TCC. For example the transparent conductive coating may employ indium tin oxide or ITO, zinc aluminum oxide, or a carbon-based conductor such as graphene. Such transparent conductive layer allows for the formation of a relatively high transmission polarizing optical articles. In certain embodiments, a transparent conductive oxide is combined with other dielectric layers which will enable optical effects such as mirroring, anti-reflecting, and/or filtering, to be achieved in combination with the polarizing effect

[0043] In certain embodiments in which a film or film laminate employing the inventive wire grid polarizer is in turn employed to form an optical article or laminate optical article such as a lens, from example through injection molding or casting, the wires formed on the film or film laminate will, but need not necessarily be, molded or cast internal of the optical article. Alternatively stated, with reference to Figs. 4 and 5, during the injection molding or casting process, the lens substrate will be molded or case directly against the surface 22 or the surface 32. In certain embodiments in which injection molding is employed, the actual surface structure of the surface 22 or the surface 32 may be flattened or otherwise lessened during the molding process.

[0044] In one embodiment of the present invention the wire grid polarizer is formed by first coating an optical article, film, or film laminate with a conductive coating and then forming the wires of the wire grid polarizer by removal of linear portions of the conductive coating by, for example direct surfacing of the conductive coated surface of the optical article, film, or film laminate. In this embodiment, the method for producing the inventive wire grid polarizer is essentially the opposite of the method described above, i.e. the conductive coating is applied to the substrate prior to the surface structuring of the substrate. In certain situations, this embodiment may be advantageous in that the wires fabricated by the conductive coating are not subject to the above described selective, directional coating. Accordingly, non-linear or divergent polarizers may more easily be fabricated.

[0045] Wire grid polarizers according to the present invention achieve a much greater polarization efficiency than the current dye and stretched film technologies used in ophthalmic lenses today. The current technologies have a limit of approximately 80 percent polarizing efficiency at approximately 50 percent transmission and a limit of approximately 96 percent polarizing efficiency at approximately 40 percent transmission. At 98 percent polarizing efficiency, currently used technologies are limited to approximately 15 percent transmission. The wire grid polarizers according to the present invention advantageously and surprisingly improve upon the polarizing efficiency and transmission of current polarizing technologies. For example, wire grid polarizers according to the present invention achieve polarizing efficiencies of greater than 99 percent at approximately 50 percent light transmission.

[0046] Although the invention has been described in terms of particular embodiments and applications, one of ordinary skill in the art, in light of this teaching, can generate additional embodiments and modifications without departing from the spirit of or exceeding the scope of the claimed invention. Accordingly, it is to be understood that the drawings and descriptions herein are proffered by way of example to facilitate comprehension of the invention and should not be construed to limit the scope thereof.