Spatial Light Modulator (SLM) Technology

Fast, flexible shaping of optical phase and amplitude using high-performance liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) spatial light modulator (SLM) technology

We offer phase-modulating SLMs with industry-leading frame rates and phase accuracy.

Using custom liquid crystals, high-voltage backplanes, novel pixel addressing schemes, and low latency PCIe drivers, BNS provides the fastest LCoS phase-modulating SLMs in the industry. In addition to our standard 1536x1536 and 768x768 pixel arrays, we can develop custom LCoS SLM devices and systems with a range of leading capabilities:

  • Phase-only, amplitude-only, or combined phase and amplitude modulation in a single SLM
  • Unique modulators, such as polarization-independent SLMs
  • Fast switching speeds: > 600 Hz for full analog phase modulating SLMs
  • Mirrored backplanes providing 100% effective fill factor for reduced diffractive losses
  • Sub-millisecond addressing to suppress phase ripple for higher efficiency
  • Low-latency 8-bit and 16-bit PCIe drivers for fast and accurate control
  • Large format backplanes up to 30 mm x 30 mm with millions of pixels
Janelle Shane is a Senior Research Scientist at Boulder Nonlinear Systems.

SLMs, beam steering, entire optical systems — if what you need doesn't exist yet, we can make it happen.

Dr. Janelle Shane

Senior Research Scientist

We are pushing SLM technology to its limits.

Since 1988, BNS has been advancing the state-of-the-art in liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) spatial light modulator (SLM) technology. These LCoS SLMs use an array of independent liquid crystal pixels to shape an incident wavefront. As such, these devices can modulate a beam of light to add information to it, often in ways that shape, correct, and/or steer it. 

At BNS, we have been at the forefront of new LCoS SLM development, with a range of industry firsts for speed, size, and functionality that stretch back decades. Whether you need a high-speed 1536x1536 or 768x768 array, a custom SLM, or a SLM-based optical system, we want to provide your SLM solution.

Resolution 1536 x 1536 768 x 768
Pixel Pitch 20 μm x 20μm 20 μm x 20μm
Array Size 30.7 mm × 30.7 mm 15.4 mm × 15.4 mm
Fill Factor 96.0% 96.0%
True Zero-Order Diffraction Efficiency* 78.5% 78.5%
Controller Phase Levels 65,536 / 16 bits 65,536 / 16 bits
SLM Phase Levels (Resolvable) ≥ 256 linear levels (8-bit), 2π phase stroke ≥ 256 linear levels (8-bit), 2π phase stroke
Maximum Efficient Frame Rate** 500 Hz 600 Hz
On-Board Image Storage*** 2,045 8,180
Trigger Response for On-Board Images 6 μs latency / 3-9 μs jitter

6 μs latency / 3-9 μs jitter


*Zero-order diffraction efficiency based on experimentally measured data on fully built SLM head at 1064 nm. As an experimentally measured value, small unit-to-unit variations are possible. Take care when comparing against calculated theoretical maximum values, values for only the backplane without other losses included, or reports of peak values for other wavelengths.

**Maximum Efficient Frame Rate measured at 1064 nm for transitions between uncorrelated holograms generated by the Gerchberg-Saxton algorithm (i.e., many random phase values). The maximum rate is taken to be the speed at which the diffraction efficiency is reduced to ~90% of the steady-state diffraction efficiency. Higher speeds are possible with further reductions in efficiency. Maximum speed reported for holograms pre-downloaded to board. 

***Once downloaded to the board, these holograms can be accessed in any order at high speed using hardware-implemented Overdrive calculations. 

Dr. Doug McKnight is the VP of Research and Development at Boulder Nonlinear Systems.

Our approach to SLMs has always been to start with the needs of the application and design from there. Most manufacturers start with a backplane designed for the display industry and then repurpose it as a SLM. Because we design our devices from the ground up, we’re able to achieve speeds and sizes that exceed anything in the display industry.

Dr. Doug McKnight

VP of Research & Development

Industries Using SLM Technology

BNS customers leverage our capabilities and experience to develop light control solutions in demanding applications across many disciplines. Our varied and multi-disciplinary team of dedicated scientists and engineers is always ready to tackle challenging new problems in novel areas.

Publication Library

Browse the Full Library

Discover more ways our advanced technologies can shape, correct, and steer light to address your challenging applications.