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Preparing for Liquid Crystal Synthesis

A student purifies a compound for liquid crystal synthesis

Brad Brown, a senior in chemistry at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, purifies a compound for liquid crystal synthesis. [Image 2 of 2 related images. See Image 1.]

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Brad Brown works in the lab of materials chemist Daniel Dyer, who received a grant from the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. The five-year grant is awarded to promising young scientists who integrate teaching with their research. Dyer, an assistant professor, conducts his research at his lab at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His primary focus is nanotechnology.

Dyer is creating thin films and ultra-thin films from organic polymers (long, chain-like molecules) and liquid crystals, which ultimately would be very useful in commercial devices. Thin films are measured in microns and ultra-thin films can get down to the nanoscale. Dyer is trying to make films that have a special characteristic called "polar order."

The molecules in the materials Dyer work with have dipoles--a negative end and a positive end--that are usually in random order, but in some materials like crystal or liquid crystal, the dipoles have some order and align along the same axis. In so-called "polar material," the dipoles not only align the same way, but their negative ends also point the same direction. Organic polymers and liquid crystals with polar order would offer some striking benefits for silicon technology. For example, it's much easier to coat a silicon chip with an organic compound than with an inorganic compound. If you could get those organic molecules to orient in the particular direction you wanted, the advantages would be huge. [This information is taken from Perspectives magazine, published by Southern Illinois University Carbondale.]

Credit: Photo by University Photocommunications, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale

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