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Understanding and exploiting self-assembly in liquid crystals on multiple length scales

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We are all familiar with the concept of materials as solids, liquids and gases. There is a fourth state of matter that exist between solid and liquid states known as liquid crystalline state.

Liquid crystals elegantly combine characteristics of the conventional solid and isotropic liquid and are a fascinating class of opto-electronic materials. The most familiar application of liquid crystals is the liquid crystal displays or LCDs. There are a number of liquid crystal phases and they show unique molecular arrangements and functionalities.

In this presentation, I will outline some of the amazing complex molecular and supramolecular self-assembled structures formed by liquid crystal molecules. I will explain promising methods of exploiting the self-assembled architectures to create novel functional and responsive materials and devices. One of them is by using liquid crystals as a medium to confine nano and microparticles. The effect of dispersing non spherical litho-particles, influence of particle geometry and nature on the physical properties of the colloid will be discussed. The second method is physically transferring the structural features of liquid crystals into polymers by imprinting or templating. Templated structures offer great potential in understanding interfacial interactions between liquid crystals and polymers at the nanoscale. The templated structures allow the use of an assured templated matrix rather than the molecular details of individual chemical compounds to exhibit complex three dimensional ordering. Experimental results of templating one of the recently discovered liquid crystal phases, the twist bend nematic phase, will be shown. The third method is a bottom-up strategy of preparing controlled nano- and micro- structures by combining the spontaneous self-assembly of liquid crystals with nanophase separation behaviour of copolymers. This procedure offers new way of controlling the orientation of the polymer due to controllable interfacial interactions between the liquid crystalline components and air and substrate.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Physics Society series.

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