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 Cement as a climate killer: Using industrial residues to produce carbon neutral alternatives
20.05.2019 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

nachricht Discovering unusual structures from exception using big data and machine learning techniques
17.05.2019 | Science China Press

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

Im Focus: A step towards probabilistic computing

Working group led by physicist Professor Ulrich Nowak at the University of Konstanz, in collaboration with a team of physicists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, demonstrates how skyrmions can be used for the computer concepts of the future

When it comes to performing a calculation destined to arrive at an exact result, humans are hopelessly inferior to the computer. In other areas, humans are...

Im Focus: Recording embryonic development

Scientists develop a molecular recording tool that enables in vivo lineage tracing of embryonic cells

The beginning of new life starts with a fascinating process: A single cell gives rise to progenitor cells that eventually differentiate into the three germ...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Cement as a climate killer: Using industrial residues to produce carbon neutral alternatives

20.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

When bees are freezing

20.05.2019 | Life Sciences

Machine learning speeds modeling of experiments aimed at capturing fusion energy on Earth

20.05.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>