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A new liquid-crystal phase-grating mode has been found. The grating is formed by the application of a spatially periodic electric field to a uniformly aligned liquid-crystal layer with dielectric and optical anisotropy. The fundamental diffraction characteristics of this liquid-crystal phase grating were measured by using a Schlieren optical system, and analyzed based on Fraunhofer diffraction theory with the assumption that the refractive indices vary periodically in the liquid-crystal layer. The incident light is diffracted under the electric field in particular directions determined by the spatial frequency of the periodic electrode, and the intensity of the diffracted light increases abruptly or gradually above the threshold depending on the cell thickness. The applicability of this liquid-crystal phase grating to a light valve in a projection display system is also considered.