The use of Holographic Optical Elements (HOEs) in applications, such as in light shaping and redirection, requires certain characteristics such as a high Diffraction Efficiency, low angular selectivity and stability against UV damage. In order to maximize the performance of the HOEs, photosensitive materials are needed that have been optimised for the characteristics that are of particular importance in that application. At the core of the performance of these devices is the refractive index modulation created during holographic recording. Typically, a higher refractive index modulation will enable greater light Diffraction Efficiency and also operation with thinner devices, which in turn decreases the angular selectivity and the stability of the refractive index modulation introduced during recording, which is key to the longevity of the device. Solar concentrators based on volume HOEs can particularly benefit from thinner devices, because, for a solar concentrator to have a high angular working range, thinner photopolymer layers with a smaller angular selectivity are required. This paper presents an optimisation of an acrylamide-based photopolymer formulation for an improved refractive index modulation and recording speed. This was achieved by studying the effect of the concentration of acrylamide and the influence of different initiators in the photopolymer composition on the diffraction efficiency of holographic gratings. Two initiators of different molecular weights were compared: triethanolamine (TEA) and methyldiethanolamine (MDEA). A fivefold increase in the rate of grating formation was achieved through the modification of the acrylamide concentration alone, and it was also found that holograms recorded with MDEA as the initiator performed the best and recorded up to 25% faster than a TEA-based photopolymer. Finally, tests were carried out on the stability of the protected and unprotected photopolymer layers when subjected to UV light. The properties exhibited by this photopolymer composition make it a promising material for the production of optical elements and suitable for use in applications requiring prolonged exposure to UV light when protected by a thin melinex cover.
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