The polarization of light underlies many recent technological innovations, including 3D cinema and LCD. In LCDs, small electronically controlled liquid crystal elements are sandwiched between the polarizers. If, instead, other transparent polarization-altering films – such as cellophane gift wrap and packaging tape – are placed between a set of polarizers, an array of polarizer-filtered colors can be observed.
In american journal of physicsAaron Slekov of Trent University in Canada, by AIP Publishing, explores the physics of how such colors emerge, how they can be controlled, and the microscopic order of layers of films between viewing angles, sample orientation, and polarization. Why can there be changes? The colors seen have a dramatic effect.
The research emphasizes visual examples of concepts related to dichotomy, such as addition, subtraction, and sequence of operations. For example, the noncommutative nature of binomial addition is usually characterized using formal matrix math. However, in this case, the researchers use color visualization.
“I use a visual language of color to illustrate the microscopic physics that is often only represented mathematically,” Slekov said.
He was, in part, inspired by the work of artist Austin Wood Comaro, who made a career in applying polarization-filtered color techniques to the fine arts. Austin coined the polarizing term “polage” or collage to refer to his art.
Austin created a wide range of functions using sophisticated layering of cut cellophane and other bimetallic polymer films, which were interconnected with layers of film polarizers. Her pieces range from small stand-alone pieces to large-scale career-spanning installations at institutions, such as the Disney Epcot Center in 1981 and the Gyeongsangnam-do Institute of Science Education in Jinju, South Korea in 2017.
Slekov said, “In this work, I elucidate the link between polarization filtering and the colors seen. I demonstrate how the different aspects of dichromatism in common household films provide opportunities and challenges for their use in art. “
To form polarization-filtered colors, only a dichotomous sample is needed, sandwiched between polarizers forming a polarization gate. Many home items can offer a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns.
For example, transparent plastic cutlery provides an excellent performance, where the localized strain in the polymer structure results in differential bifurcation, which can be observed through the polarization gate. Similarly, some randomly folded kitchen cling wrap, gift basket film and layered adhesive tape can create intricate images reminiscent of stained glass windows.
“The manipulation of dichromatic films for the purpose of creating color images is fun and intellectually stimulating. Polarization, dichroism, retardation and much of the microscopic physics of color theory can be seen in this accessible yet detailed endeavor,” Slekov said.
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