The website for Science and Engineering Indicators 2018 incorporates a polarization microscope image of liquid crystals. Liquid crystals revolutionized how we present information, giving rise to the liquid crystal display (LCD) industry. Modern devices including smartphones, laptop screens, and flat-panel television sets all feature LCDs, in which so-called nematic (“threadlike”) liquid crystals realign in an electric field, thus changing the appearance of the pixelated screen.
In the photo, the two dark centers with emerging streamers are called “boojum,” point defects in the molecular orientation of the liquid crystal. The defects form at the surface of a thin film of nematic fluid, the simplest form of a liquid crystal. The bands of different colors show the varying orientation of liquid crystal molecules around the defect.
This image was created by Oleg D. Lavrentovich, Trustees Research Professor, Liquid Crystal Institute and Chemical Physics Interdisciplinary Program, Kent State University. Work at the Liquid Crystal Institute explores the physical mechanisms behind the complex, three-dimensional molecular architectures and the practical applications of these materials. Research in liquid crystals at Kent State University has been supported by a series of National Science Foundation grants (the most recent is NSF award number 17-29509).
Image credit: Oleg D. Lavrentovich, Liquid Crystal Institute, Kent State University.