Introduction: Diffuser (Polarizer) Glasses

Picture of Diffuser (Polarizer) Glasses

As curious as I am, I opened up the LCD screen of an old laptop that would have been thrown away otherwise.

What I found inside seemed to be the most interesting material ever! There were multiple sheets of plastic that looked to be metallic and shiny, but reflected and diffused light in strange ways. 

Trying to come up with a fun project, I settled on diffuser glasses. 
--I honestly do not know what to call these things, polarizers or diffusers. Whatever they may be, please let me know, so I can put up the correct information!

I'll take you step by step to make these fun, yet disorienting glasses.

Note: I will not be responsible for broken monitors or concussions! :)

What it looks like:

 Thank you to my friend for the idea!

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

There is a fairly short list of materials

1. An old laptop or some spare sheets of this diffuser stuff. Old cellphones or anything with an LCD should work.
2. RealD 3D Glasses! (I got mine from Avatar, but really any fairly large glasses without lenses are fine)
3. Flat and phillips head screwdrivers
4. Small pocketknife, or anything with a thin blade that gives you good leverage
5. Scissors
6. White paper
7. Pencil
8. Scotch tape

Step 2: Take Apart Your Screen!

Picture of Take Apart Your Screen!

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of me taking apart the screen :(

I'm sure there are other places you can attain this material, if there are, leave a comment!
But, it shouldn't be very hard!

I was a little desctuctive while taking mine apart, prying the screen off, because there was nothing else of use on the broken machine.

If you're having trouble you'll find a good instructable to take apart a laptop here:

1. Just get out a flathead screwdriver, and pry the plastic casing off. Do not worry, there is another metal casing inside.
2. When you take the plastic casing off, you should have something that looks like picture 1.  
3. Unscrew this casing apart, separate the parts and sheets, and you'll be left with an array of components, from the backlight, to the sheets we're looking for.
4. There should be two, very hard to describe sheets, that look metallic and shiny, yet are transparent at the same time, just depending on the angle they are looked at. Put these off to the side. 
(You can use the LCD panel itself as a cool room ornament, I hung mine in my room!)
5. Proceed to step 3

Step 3: Prepare the Glasses

Picture of Prepare the Glasses

 Very simple step.

If you just have regular lenseless glasses, go on to step 4

If you have a pair of RealD 3D glasses, you'll notice that they have two layers.
Simply put, you can harmlessly take them apart, remove the 3D polarizers, replace them with our lenses, and put them back together. 

1. Get a pocketknife, or anything with a thin blade, and get it in between the two pieces of your glasses. 
2. Pry them off carefully, being careful not to break the plastic
3. Separate the pieces
4. Remove the 3D polarizers

Step 4: Cut Out Our Lenses!

Picture of Cut Out Our Lenses!

 Now, we can cut out our lenses for our glasses.

1. Take the 3D polarizers from the RealD glasses and trace each one individually onto a sheet of white paper.
2. Cut out the paper traces of the lenses
3. Take out your diffuser sheet
4. Tape the white paper onto the diffuser sheet using two pieces of Scotch tape
5. Cut out the lenses using the white paper as a guide. 
6. Test to see if our diffuser lenses fit into the 3D glasses, if not, trim them down until they do

Step 5: Finish the Glasses

Picture of Finish the Glasses

Now to finish up

1. Take out newly cut out diffuser lenses, and place them where the old 3D polarizers went in the glasses.
Note: It doesn't matter which side of the lens you put facing in a certain direction. They have different looks from the outside and inside when worn facing different directions, forward or backwards. 
2. Put the two pieces together
3. Wear them! 

And it's hard to post a picture of what you see when looking through them, because a camera can't quite capture that, so I'll let you figure out!


PierreF (author)2011-11-22

Hi, your glasses are very nice! Theses sheets diffract the light in a funny way.
But this thin plastic stuff isn't a fresnel lens or a polariser,

but a diffraction grid!

This grid is used in lcd screens to separate colors from the white light, in order to have Red, blue or green pixels! This explain why you can see some "rainbows" with your glasses :)

mhassan5 (author)2011-10-07

Do they effect your eyesight?

rix_101 (author)2011-01-06

I can't get the two layers apart :/ Any tips?

bilham (author)2010-06-23

I tried to make one, but i couldn't put the two pieces back together. Should I glue them? Maybe I damaged the plastic?

louieaw (author)bilham2010-06-23

Yeah. I ended up putting a little bit of glue between the two pieces because they would occasionally come apart. You may have chipped off a small piece of the plastic, but glue would fix that.

LDDR (author)2010-05-07

 an old big screen T.V. with the plastic for the screen works awesome as well

davej6694 (author)2010-04-11

dude i made a pair and they are so awesome! thanks man :o

milkywaybar (author)2010-02-01

you might be able to find out what it's called here:

frollard (author)2010-01-19

The sheets he is taking OUT of the old glasses:  They are linear...I had a pair, and they are linear polarized.  "real3d" projects one lens vertical and the other lens horizontal with a prism splitter to get each frame overlaid on the same screen using just one projector rather than the old style of 2 projectors, one with each orientation of polarization.  I used to be a projectionist.

Holding pairs of glasses face to face cancels because it puts a left and a right in front of each other (vert + horizontal) which is opaque, but if you hold the glasses face to face and rotate one pair of glasses it becomes semitransparent based on the angle.

The lenses he is putting INTO the old frames:  fresnell lenses.

getack (author)frollard2010-01-20

Are you sure they are linear polarized? Because the RealD 3D glasses I got from a movie in South Africa are NOT linear polarized. They are cirular polarized. One is clockwise and the other is antclockwise. When I rotate the two lenses over eachother, they change in transparency, but they never go complely opaque. Apparently the circular polarisation in 3D movie goggles ease the strain on the eyes. But i'm no expert.

frollard (author)getack2010-01-20

I wasn't aware that a spiral polarization existed - if it did then it would always be 'mostly opaque' at all angles - think of two spirals overlaid, no matter what angle they still always have the same amount of overlap.

They are linear.  'never totally opaque' is because they are not perfect polarizers - very few materials are, and definitely not plastic 3 dollar lenses.
*image blatantly ripped off from the website.

Note the arrows are INCORRECT in this picture - vertical slits allow VERTICALLY polarized image to pass through, not opposite as it shows.  Howstuffworks also has the red/blue analglyph glasses image backwards - a red filter only allows the red image through, not the blue image as shown.

getack (author)frollard2010-01-28

Actually, frollard, the picture IS correct. If you read on under the Absorptive caption you will find an explanation. The notion that the light waves "slip through" is incorrect. Mechanics of polarisation is much more complicated than that. Waves parallel to to the polariser gets absorbed, but waves perpendicular goes through. I was misinformed as well. But I believe after this thought-provoking and stimulating thread, we all leave a bit more informed!


frollard (author)getack2010-01-28

I guess it depends on how you visualize the polarization, and how you visualize the em radiation:  which axis is considered for visualization and which is considered for polarization transmittance...

Creamaster (author)frollard2010-01-27

 That's a pretty big FAIL for How Stuff Works eh?

mr_step (author)frollard2010-01-20

They are very very good for cheap plastic glasses, nearly completely opaque at angles. You can see a very bright torch shone through, but normal comfortable viewing light is blocked quite well.

There's a short write up on RealD here:

And circular polarization here:

Circular polarization is somewhat rare in nature, though it is thought some shrimp can actually detect circular polarized light.

frollard (author)mr_step2010-01-20

I are learned; thank you for the info!

just seems it would be hard to produce a circularly polarized lense - only allowing one rotation of em to pass through.

mr_step (author)getack2010-01-20

Mine were also circular (Australian cinema)

There should be one combination looking through them where it will go completely opaque no matter what hold them. Just flip one around and it will go completely black when trying to look through both no matter how you rotate them. Which is the behaviour mine exhibited.

It's possible some theatres are still using linear polarization if they already had that fitted, but as far as i knew all the new installations were using circular.

They do use the single projector with an alternating filter that alternates the right/left handedness of the image. You can read all about it on the RealD wiki page or on their site.

Creamaster (author)mr_step2010-01-27

 That explains why they don't go opaque. I kept my pair and noticed this but didn't bother researching. I assumed they where just cheap glasses. 

I kept the lenses to try making a poor-man's polarizing camera filter for shooting through water. I'' post an instructable if it works.

Vulcanator (author)2010-01-27

i made mine a year ago and brought them into school and played dodgeball while wearing them. it was crazy.

world_domination (author)2010-01-20

you're using a fresnel lens which is practically a huge powerful magnifying lens. they use those in lighthouses and flatscreen tvs. you take that out on a hot or sunny day, you could melt pennies, concrete and sand. i've actually tried it before and it was awesome. nut i dont recommend to use them as sunglass lens though.

wow awesome, seriously?

yeah, try it on a hot sunny day. i live in southern california so this isnt a problem but if it is a problem, do it during summer

nice,  i'll try sumtime, ty dude

BobS (author)world_domination2010-01-24

Sorry, but not (necessarily) true. The Fresnel principle does not imply any specific optical design. It just means an optical element is 'chopped up', to fit on a sheet, car fixture or light house. it can be a positive, negative or neutral element. In this case it is a prism.

louieaw (author)world_domination2010-01-21

:-/ not good... haha

geeklord (author)2010-01-19

Holy crap!, I made these just a couple months ago out of some safety glasses and the sheets of whatever it is from a camera LCD! I brought mine to school and let a bunch of people try them on; even a teacher tried them on. I got them taken away in 3 of my 5 classes though...

louieaw (author)geeklord2010-01-20

 Haha. Sorry, but yeah. I let some friends use them at school. Everybody loved them, especially trying to walk down the hallways. Big hit!

geeklord (author)louieaw2010-01-24

I got mine taken away because it was distracting to other students, not because of me, really.

louieaw (author)2010-01-24

 Thanks. I was actually starting to have that same problem too. Black tape sounds like a good fix, or maybe some poster putty? I don't want to permanently seal the two together with glue, because if you reverse the lenses, you get a different appearance. 

uldics (author)2010-01-21

When I was a kid, I had a little game clock (Nu pogodi) with the only game being a wolf catching eggs from forur corners , four chicken, dropping them faster and faster. It had approximately 5x7cm screen, monochrome, which only could show some distinct figures at their places. With time the screen faded out, probably from sun or aging, not sure. But I took it apart and took out of the screen, the polarizer sheet.
I had also at the time (80ties) a hand watch, it was called Elektronika 5. It had same type screen, where I took the polarizer sheet out. I screwed my large game polarizer sheet to the inside of my sunglases. Now I could see my watch alone - my friends were amazed.

spstromberg (author)2010-01-21

Don't wear these outside. None of the materials used block UV light. The lenses block visible light so your pupils will dilate letting in more UV light than normal and can do damage. It doesn't look like something you would wear for more than a minute with all the distortion. But don't start wearing around RealD glasses just because they look super nerdy, you will damage your eyes.

norsehorse (author)2010-01-18

These are like the "drunk goggles" that simulate heavy intoxication. The local police department brought them to our school and a few volunteers got to try to pass the "walking a line" test while wearing them. Nice job!

Shadow13! (author)norsehorse2010-01-19

What is even harder then walking drunk goggles is trying to drive a golf cart through an obstacle course with the strongest ones on.

OracsRevenge (author)2010-01-18

 Hey BobS, that first microscope shot seems to shrink as I look at it, spooky !

mikeasaurus (author)2010-01-17

can you include a shot taken through the lens so we can see what it looks like when wearing them?

louieaw (author)mikeasaurus2010-01-17

 I've tried, but it doesn't really come out the way it looks. I can say that you don't see anything clearly, you run into things, but it's really fun. 

frollard (author)louieaw2010-01-18

Try either the macro setting on your camera (flower), or the infinite focus setting (landscape/mountains) to see if that helps overcome the autofocus having a poop-fit with this extra lens :D

louieaw (author)frollard2010-01-18

 I updated the instructable. There's a video up now of what it looks like. 

Kiteman (author)frollard2010-01-18

The problem will be that the camera only has one lens, but the effect i spartly down to looking through both lenses at once.

Ceiling cat (author)2010-01-18

You can also get the same thing out of the LCD in an old cell phone.  Easier to find and also much cheaper.(sometimes free)

lemonie (author)2010-01-18

What fun!


frollard (author)2010-01-18

I was just gonna say (as bob points out) that these are basically fresnel lenses that increase the viewing angle of the lcd - which has a poor angle - by spraying a focussed image out in all directions.

The lenses you took OUT of the real3d glasses WERE polarized - you can tell if they're polarized if they change transparency as you change the angle of two layered sheets...try it with the lenses you took out!

dchall8 (author)2010-01-18

Whatever you do don't show this Instructable to any potential new girlfriends.  Wait until at least the 3rd date and she already knows something about you ;-)

BobS (author)2010-01-18

Here is a picture taken through my microscope; 100x, of the material you have used. The bars are tiny prisms. Just like a fresnel lens, used in the old overhead projectors to gather light, the sheet behaves like a prism to refract the light left and right, so you can watch a movie together with your girlfriend... 

louieaw (author)BobS2010-01-18

 Whoah! That's very cool. I assumed there was something like that going on, because it refracts the light at an angle

BobS (author)2010-01-18

And another picture, looking through the material (which is almost as tough as sheet metal!!!).

RelaxedSoup (author)2010-01-17

I recently made a tracing table out of the backlight from and old LCD monitor, and was entertained by the shiny diffusers as well.  I assume their purpose is to gather the light and focus it in one direction, similar to a Fresnel lens.

BobS (author)2010-01-17

You beat me on using the materials inside a display!!!  Right now building/ working on an instructable! If all goes well I can publish in about a week!

Doctor What (author)2010-01-17

 Migraine inducer!

louieaw (author)Doctor What2010-01-17

 There we go! And nausea as well.

About This Instructable




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