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Manipulation of defects on surface layer of a smectic liquid crystal

Illustration shows the manipulation of defects on the surface layer of a smectic liquid crystal

Crystals are materials that have molecules arrayed in regular 3-D patterns. Liquid crystals contain some, but not all, of these patterns, and their molecules can flow around one another and change the direction they face. This behavior allows defects--places on the surface where the molecular orientation of the liquid crystals is disrupted. This illustration depicts the manipulation of defects on the surface layer of a smectic liquid crystal--a class of liquid crystals that form stacks of layers spaced in nanometers--using micropillar templates.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has introduced a new way to direct the assembly of liquid crystals, generating small features that spontaneously arrange in arrays based on much larger templates.

Liquid crystals naturally produce a pattern of close-packed defects on their surfaces," said Shu Yang, an associate professor in the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Penn, "but it turns out that this pattern is often not that interesting for device applications. We want to arbitrarily manipulate that pattern on demand."

Support for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through its support of Penn's Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter, an NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (supported by grants DMR 11-20901 and PHY 11-25915) and an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

Further information about this research is available in the Penn news story Penn researchers show new level of control over liquid crystals. (Date of Image: November 2012)

Credit: Art courtesy of Felice Macera, Daniel Beller, Apiradee Honglawan and Simon Copar, University of Pennsylvania

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