A universal polarization converter is provided including a polarizer configured to receive unpolarized light. The polarizer is further configured to split the received unpolarized light into a first and second polarized state. At least two quarter wave phase retarders are configured to convert each of the first and second polarized states to opposite handed polarized beams. A cholesteric mirror is configured to combine the opposite handed polarized beams. In other embodiments, the cholesteric mirror may be replaced by a second polarizer and optional quarter wave retardation plate. Further embodiments may include a single polarization converter and multiple quarter wave retardation plates.
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