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Summary form only given. We present a new design of surface plasmon resonance (SPR) biosensor based on the use of a liquid crystal phase modulator. The important features of this approach are instrumentation simplicity and high sensitivity. The liquid crystal phase modulators are low-cost devices which also offer large active area for the probe beam, we anticipate that our approach may be readily adapted to SPR imaging sensors. Such devices are projected to be the next generation of SPR biosensors providing 2-dimensional arrayed measurement capability. Successful experimental verification of the new approach is demonstrated by performing SPR phase measurement on glycerin/water mixtures in which the refractive index may be finely adjusted by varying the glycerin concentration.