PHOTOREFRACTIVE materials are of considerable interest for the development of all-optical devices1. The photoref ractive effect appears in materials that exhibit an electric-field-dependent refractive index and that are photosensitive, such that the spatial distribution of photogenerated charge carriers is modified on irradiation with light. The diffraction pattern formed by the interference of two coherent light beams within such a material generates a non-uniform internal electric field that in turn modulates the refractive index. The resulting refractive-index pattern forms a grating that can diffract light and thereby give rise to two-beam coupling, whereby one of the writing beams gains energy at the expense of the other - a property that can be exploited in photonic devices. Although the best photorefractive materials currently available are inorganic crystals such as LiNbO3, there is considerable interest in the development of photorefractive polymers 2-8, owing to their structural flexibility, ease of processing and lower cost. We describe here a polymer composite with excellent photorefractive properties. We have achieved a diffraction efficiency approaching 100% and a net two-beam coupling gain of more than 200 cm-1, making these polymeric materials suitable for immediate application in areas such as dynamic holographic storage and optical information processing1.
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