Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

At Smallest Scale, Liquid Crystal Behavior Portends New Materials

04.05.2012
Liquid crystals, the state of matter that makes possible the flat screen technology now commonly used in televisions and computers, may have some new technological tricks in store.

Writing yesterday (May 3, 2012) in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers led by University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering Juan J. de Pablo reports the results of a computational study that shows liquid crystals, manipulated at the smallest scale, can unexpectedly induce the molecules they interact with to self-organize in ways that could lead to entirely new classes of materials with new properties.

"From an applied perspective, once we get to very small scales, it becomes incredibly difficult to pattern the structure of materials. But here we show it is possible to use liquid crystals to spontaneously create nanoscale morphologies we didn’t know existed," says de Pablo of computer simulations that portray liquid crystals self-organizing at the molecular scale in ways that could lead to remarkable new materials with scores of technological applications.

As their name implies, liquid crystals exhibit the order of a solid crystal but flow like a liquid. Used in combination with polarizers, optical filters and electric fields, liquid crystals underlie the pixels that make sharp pictures on thin computer or television displays. Liquid crystal displays alone are a multibillion dollar industry. The technology has also been used to make ultrasensitive thermometers and has even been deployed in lasers, among other applications.

The new study modeled the behavior of thousands of rod-shaped liquid crystal molecules packed into nano-sized liquid droplets. It showed that the confined molecules self organize as the droplets are cooled. "At elevated temperatures, the droplets are disordered and the liquid is isotropic," de Pablo explains. "As you cool them down, they become ordered and form a liquid crystal phase. The liquid crystallinity within the droplets, surprisingly, induces water and other molecules at the interface of the droplets, known as surfactants, to organize into ordered nanodomains. This is a behavior that was not known."

In the absence of a liquid crystal, the molecules at the interface of the droplet adopt a homogeneous distribution. In the presence of a liquid crystal, however, they form an ordered nanostructure. "You have two things going on at the same time: confinement of the liquid crystals and an interplay of their structure with the interface of the droplet," notes de Pablo. "As you lower the temperature the liquid crystal starts to become organized and imprints that order into the surfactant itself, causing it to self assemble."

It was well known that interfaces influence the order or morphology of liquid crystals. The new study shows the opposite to be true as well.

"Now you can think of forming these ordered nanophases, controlling them through droplet size or surfactant concentration, and then decorating them to build up structures and create new classes of materials," says de Pablo.

As an example, de Pablo suggested that surfactants coupled to DNA molecules could be added to the surface of a liquid crystal droplets, which could then assemble through the hybridization of DNA. Such nanoscale engineering, he notes, could also form the basis for liquid crystal based detection of toxins, biological molecules, or viruses. A virus or protein binding to the droplet would change the way the surfactants and the liquid crystals within the droplet are organized, triggering an optical signal. Such a technology would have important uses in biosecurity, health care and biology research settings.

The new study was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) through the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, and the U.S. National Science Foundation. In addition to de Pablo, authors of the new report include former postdoctoral fellows J.A. Moreno-Razo and E.J. Sambriski, now at the Autonomous Metropolitan University of Mexico and Delaware Valley College, respectively; Nicholas L. Abbott, of UW-Madison; and J.P. Hernández-Ortiz of the National University of Colombia.

-- Terry Devitt (608) 262-8282, trdevitt@wisc.edu

Juan de Pablo | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

Further reports about: DNA DNA molecule Energy Science Liquid Science TV computer simulation liquid crystal

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing
20.07.2017 | University of Leeds

nachricht Here's a tip: Indented cement shows unique properties
20.07.2017 | Rice University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

Leipzig HTP-Forum discusses "hydrothermal processes" as a key technology for a biobased economy

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers create new technique for manipulating polarization of terahertz radiation

20.07.2017 | Information Technology

High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing

20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors

20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>