Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Liquid crystal


The salient feature of liquid crystal elastomers and networks is strong coupling between orientational order and mechanical strain. Orientational order can be changed by a wide variety of stimuli, including the presence of moisture. Changes in the orientation of constituents give rise to stresses and strains, which result in changes in sample shape. We have utilized this effect to build soft cellulose-based motor driven by humidity. The motor consists of a circular loop of cellulose film, which passes over two wheels. When humid air is present near one of the wheels on one side of the film, with drier air elsewhere, rotation of the wheels results. As the wheels rotate, the humid film dries. The motor runs so long as the difference in humidity is maintained. Our cellulose liquid crystal motor thus extracts mechanical work from a difference in humidity.

Concepts: Crystal, Soft matter, Orientation, Humidity, Liquid crystal, Rigid body, Evaporation, Building insulation


Among photofunctional materials that can be employed to control the propagation of light by modifying their properties, soft dielectrics such as nematic liquid crystals (NLCs) stand out for their large all-optical response. Through reorientation, the molecular distribution of NLCs can be modified by the electric field of light, permitting functional operations and supporting self-localized light beams or spatial optical solitons. To date, the generation and routing of such solitons have been limited by the boundary conditions employed to tailor the properties of NLCs in planar cells or capillaries. Here we report on spatial solitons in bulk NLCs with no lateral anchoring, where the application of an external magnetic field effectively controls the direction of propagation and the angular steering of the self-trapped wavepackets. Our results entail a completely new approach to the routing of self-localized beams and light-induced waveguides in three dimensions, without the usual limitations imposed by transverse boundary conditions.

Concepts: Electron, Electromagnetism, Magnetic field, Optics, Light, Maxwell's equations, Dimension, Liquid crystal


The symmetry of the intermediate high-temperature phase of PbHfO3 has been determined unambiguously to be orthorhombic using a combination of high-resolution X-ray diffraction and birefringence imaging microscopy measurements of crystal plates. While lattice parameter measurements as a function of temperature in the intermediate phase are consistent with either orthorhombic or tetragonal symmetry, domain orientations observed in birefringence imaging microscopy measurements utilizing the Metripol system are only consistent with orthorhombic symmetry with the unit cell in the rhombic orientation of the pseudocubic unit cell.

Concepts: Crystal, Diffraction, X-ray, Crystallography, X-ray crystallography, Crystal system, Liquid crystal, Crystallographic database


Hierarchical control of two-dimensional (2D) molecular alignment patterns over large areas is essential for designing high-functional organic materials and devices. However, even by the most powerful current methods, dye molecules that discolor and destabilize the materials need to be doped in, complicating the process. We present a dye-free alignment patterning technique, based on a scanning wave photopolymerization (SWaP) concept, that achieves a spatial light-triggered mass flow to direct molecular order using scanning light to propagate the wavefront. This enables one to generate macroscopic, arbitrary 2D alignment patterns in a wide variety of optically transparent polymer films from various polymerizable mesogens with sufficiently high birefringence (>0.1) merely by single-step photopolymerization, without alignment layers or polarized light sources. A set of 150,000 arrays of a radial alignment pattern with a size of 27.4 μm × 27.4 μm were successfully inscribed by SWaP, in which each individual pattern is smaller by a factor of 10(4) than that achievable by conventional photoalignment methods. This dye-free inscription of microscopic, complex alignment patterns over large areas provides a new pathway for designing higher-performance optical and mechanical devices.

Concepts: Optics, Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Optical fiber, Pattern, Polarization, Birefringence, Liquid crystal


Tactoids are nuclei of an orientationally ordered nematic phase that emerge upon cooling the isotropic phase. In addition to providing a natural setting for exploring chromonics under confinement, we show that tactoids can also serve as optical probes to delineate the role of temperature and concentration in the aggregation behavior of chromonics. For high concentrations, we observe the commonly reported elongated bipolar tactoids. As the concentration is lowered, breaking of achiral symmetry in the director configuration is observed with a predominance of twisted bipolar tactoids. On further reduction of concentration, a remarkable transformation of the director configuration occurs, wherein it conforms to a unique splay-minimizing configuration. Based on a simple model, we arrive at an interesting result that lower concentrations have longer aggregates at the same reduced temperature. Hence, the splay deformation that scales linearly with the aggregate length becomes prohibitive for lower concentrations and is relieved via twist and bend deformations in this unique configuration. Raman scattering measurements of the order parameters independently verify the trend in aggregate lengths and provide a physical picture of the nematic-biphasic transition.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Electrochemistry, Scattering, Aggregate, Aggregate data, Raman scattering, Liquid crystal, Phase diagram


The mass digitization of books is changing the way information is created, disseminated and displayed. Electronic book readers (e-readers) generally refer to two main display technologies: the electronic ink (E-ink) and the liquid crystal display (LCD). Both technologies have advantages and disadvantages, but the question whether one or the other triggers less visual fatigue is still open. The aim of the present research was to study the effects of the display technology on visual fatigue. To this end, participants performed a longitudinal study in which two last generation e-readers (LCD, E-ink) and paper book were tested in three different prolonged reading sessions separated by - on average - ten days. Results from both objective (Blinks per second) and subjective (Visual Fatigue Scale) measures suggested that reading on the LCD (Kindle Fire HD) triggers higher visual fatigue with respect to both the E-ink (Kindle Paperwhite) and the paper book. The absence of differences between E-ink and paper suggests that, concerning visual fatigue, the E-ink is indeed very similar to the paper.

Concepts: Liquid crystal display, Liquid crystal, E-book, Display device, Display technology, Book, Electronic paper, Amazon Kindle


Nature provides much inspiration for the design of materials capable of motion upon exposure to external stimuli, and many examples of such active systems have been created in the laboratory. However, to achieve continuous motion driven by an unchanging, constant stimulus has proven extremely challenging. Here we describe a liquid crystalline polymer film doped with a visible light responsive fluorinated azobenzene capable of continuous chaotic oscillatory motion when exposed to ambient sunlight in air. The presence of simultaneous illumination by blue and green light is necessary for the oscillating behaviour to occur, suggesting that the dynamics of continuous forward and backward switching are causing the observed effect. Our work constitutes an important step towards the realization of autonomous, persistently self-propelling machines and self-cleaning surfaces powered by sunlight.

Concepts: Light, Laser, Liquid crystal, Visible spectrum, Mike Oldfield


Confined liquid crystals (LC) provide a unique platform for technological applications and for the study of LC properties, such as bulk elasticity, surface anchoring, and topological defects. In this work, lyotropic chromonic liquid crystals (LCLCs) are confined in spherical droplets, and their director configurations are investigated as a function of mesogen concentration using bright-field and polarized optical microscopy. Because of the unusually small twist elastic modulus of the nematic phase of LCLCs, droplets of this phase exhibit a twisted bipolar configuration with remarkably large chiral symmetry breaking. Further, the hexagonal ordering of columns and the resultant strong suppression of twist and splay but not bend deformation in the columnar phase, cause droplets of this phase to adopt a concentric director configuration around a central bend disclination line and, at sufficiently high mesogen concentration, to exhibit surface faceting. Observations of director configurations are consistent with Jones matrix calculations and are understood theoretically to be a result of the giant elastic anisotropy of LCLCs.

Concepts: Crystal, Liquid, Young's modulus, Elasticity, Liquid crystal, Liquid crystals, Mesogen, Columnar phase


A liquid surface established by standing waves is used as a dynamically reconfigurable template to assemble microscale materials into ordered, symmetric structures in a scalable and parallel manner. We illustrate broad applicability of this technology by assembling diverse materials from soft matter, rigid bodies, individual cells, cell spheroids and cell-seeded microcarrier beads.

Concepts: Colloid, Wave, Soft matter, Cellular component, Assembly language, Liquid crystal, Radio resource management, Reconfigurable computing


The sensitive response of the nematic graphene oxide (GO) phase to external stimuli makes this phase attractive for extending the applicability of GO and reduced GO to solution processes and electro-optic devices. However, contrary to expectations, the alignment of nematic GO has been difficult to control through the application of electric fields or surface treatments. Here, we show that when interflake interactions are sufficiently weak, both the degree of microscopic ordering and the direction of macroscopic alignment of GO liquid crystals (LCs) can be readily controlled by applying low electric fields. We also show that the large polarizability anisotropy of GO and Onsager excluded-volume effect cooperatively give rise to Kerr coefficients that are about three orders of magnitude larger than the maximum value obtained so far in molecular LCs. The extremely large Kerr coefficient allowed us to fabricate electro-optic devices with macroscopic electrodes, as well as well-aligned, defect-free GO over wide areas.

Concepts: Electric charge, Crystal, Fundamental physics concepts, Vector space, Phase transition, Liquid crystal, Nonlinear optics, Lars Onsager