Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Desirable defects

30.04.2015

A new meta-material based on colloids and liquid crystals

"Generally, flaws are the last thing you'd want in a liquid crystal", explains Giuseppe D'Adamo, postdoctoral fellow at SISSA. "However, this new method allows us to exploit the defects in the material to our advantage". D'Adamo is first author of a paper just published in Physical Review Letters.


This is a simulation of colloids in liquid crystals.

Credit: SISSA

The study made computer models of colloidal suspensions in liquid crystals subjected to electrical fields modulated over time. Colloids are particles in suspension (i.e., a condition halfway between dispersion and solution) in a liquid.

These composite materials have been receiving plenty of attention for their optical properties for some time now, but the use of electrical fields to modify them at will is an absolute novelty. "Our simulations demonstrate that by switching on or off an electrical field of appropriate intensity we can re-order the colloids by arranging them into columns or planes", comments Cristian Micheletti of SISSA, co-author of the paper. "This easy-to-control plasticity could make the material suitable for optical-electronic devices such as e-readers, for example".

Liquid crystals are particular types of liquids. In a normal liquid, molecules have no systematic arrangement and, viewed from any angle, they always appear the same. The molecules forming liquid crystals, by contrast, are arranged in precise patterns often dictated by their shape. To get an idea of what happens in a liquid crystal, imagine a fluid made up of tiny needles which, instead of being arranged chaotically, all point in the same direction. This also means that if we look at the liquid from different viewpoints it will change in appearance, for example it might appear lighter or darker (have you ever seen this happen in LCD monitors, especially the older models?).

"The useful natural tendency of liquid crystal molecules to spontaneously arrange themselves in a certain pattern can be counteracted by introducing colloids in the fluid. In our case, we used microscopic spherical particles, which 'force' the molecules coming into contact with their surface to adapt and rotate in a different direction" explains D'Adamo. "This creates 'defect lines' in the material, i.e., circumscribed variations in the orientation of molecules which result in a local change in the optical properties of the medium".

More in detail...

These defect lines have an important effect: they enable remote interactions among colloidal particles, by holding them together as if they were thin strings. "Liquid crystal molecules tend to align along the electrical field. By switching the field on and off we create competition between the spontaneous order of the liquid crystal, the order dictated by the surface of the colloidal particles and, finally, the order created by the electrical potential", says Micheletti. "This competition produces many defect lines that act on the colloids by moving them or clustering them".

"It's a bit like pulling the invisible strings of a puppet: by carefully modulating the electrical fields we can, in principle, make all the particles move and arrange them as we like, by creating defect lines with the shape we want" continues D'Adamo. "An important detail is that the colloidal configurations are metastable, which means that once the electrical field has been switched off the colloids remain in their last position for a very long time".

In brief, this implies that the system only requires energy when it changes configuration, a major saving. "In this respect, the method works like the electronic ink used in digital readers, and it would be interesting to explore its applicability in this sense", concludes Micheletti. The study, carried out with the collaboration of SISSA, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Padova, has been included as an Editors' Suggestion among the Highlights of the journal Physical Review Letters.

###

Useful links:

Original paper: http://arxiv.org/abs/1504.03226

IMAGES & VIDEO:

More IMAGES and VIDEO on Flickr: http://goo.gl/uV7vFq

Media Contact

federica sgorbissa
pressoffice@sissa.it
0039-040-378-7644

 @sissaschool

http://www.sissa.it 

federica sgorbissa | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Microscope measures muscle weakness
16.11.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

nachricht Good preparation is half the digestion
16.11.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Stoffwechselforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>