Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Self-aligning liquid crystal technique could simplify manufacture of display devices

A new technique for creating vertical alignment among liquid crystal molecules could allow development of less costly flexible displays and lead to a better understanding of the factors that govern operation of the popular liquid crystal display systems.

Liquid crystals are a key component of the displays used in most laptop computers and the increasingly-popular flat panel televisions. Controlled by a network of transistors, the liquid crystals change their optical characteristics in response to electrical signals to create the text and images we see.

Manufacture of the panels is complex, requiring multiple steps that can introduce defects. Among the steps is the application of a polymer film – the so-called alignment layer – to the two pieces of glass between which the liquid crystals operate. The film, which must be rubbed after being coated on the glass, anchors the crystals with a fixed alignment. The process of rubbing to create the necessary alignment can damage some of the transistors and introduce dust, producing defects that can reduce the manufacturing yield of the panels.

By adding side chains to the polymer molecules, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have found a way to eliminate the polymer rubbing step. Instead, they use the in-situ photopolymerization of alkyl acrylate monomers in the presence of nematic liquid crystals to provide a cellular matrix of liquid crystalline droplets in which the chemical structure of the encapsulating polymer controls the liquid crystal alignment.

"Small changes in the chemical nature of the polymer will change the alignment of the molecules at surfaces," said Mohan Srinivasarao, a professor in Georgia Tech's School of Polymer, Textile and Fiber Engineering. "It turns out that this can be done over a fairly large area, and it is reproducible. This would be an alternative way to create the alignment that is needed in these devices."

Srinivasarao described the self-aligning of liquid crystals on September 14th at the 232nd national meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco. His presentation was part of the session "Organic Thin Films for Photonic Applications."

Beyond the potential for simplifying the manufacture of liquid crystal devices, the self-aligning technique could also be used in new types of diffraction gratings.

Srinivasarao and collaborators Jung Ok Park and Jian Zhou have used the technique and a nematic material with negative dielectric anisotropy to fabricate highly flexible liquid crystal devices that have high contrast and fast response times – without using an alignment layer. Control is obtained by variation of the alkyl side chains and through copolymerization of two dissimilar monofunctional acrylates.

Beyond simplifying the fabrication process and potentially increasing device yield, the technique also offers other advantages. Because devices are based on vertical alignment of the liquid crystals, their "off" state can be made completely dark. In addition, the liquid crystals provide strong binding between the two substrate surfaces, making the resulting display less sensitive to mechanical deformations and pressure – ideal for flexible displays that lack the structure provided by glass plates.

Though the technique developed at Georgia Tech offers advantages over existing systems, Srinivasarao doesn't expect a change in the way the current generation of laptop screens and televisions are made. That's because existing manufacturing processes are mature and changing them probably can't be justified economically.

But beyond applications to future flexible displays, what the researchers learn from their approach could apply to the next generation of display devices based on liquid crystals.

"When we make this polymer, the molecules automatically generate the alignment," Srinivasarao said. "We are interested now in figuring out what is responsible for making that happen. We want to link the chemical nature of these polymeric materials to how the liquid crystal molecules behave at the surface."

Current displays use polyimides for an alignment layer because these materials are heat resistant and can be used over a broad range of temperatures for extended periods of time. The alkyl acrylates that Srinivasarao and his colleagues are using lack that same robustness, so material improvements would be needed before they could be used to manufacture flexible displays.

"If we can show similar results – switching times faster than 30 milliseconds and high contrast ratios – with more robust polymeric materials, then we could say that this approach would be viable," he said.

John Toon | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years
27.10.2016 | University of California - Los Angeles

nachricht 3-D-printed structures shrink when heated
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>