Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Penn Researchers Show New Level of Control Over Liquid Crystals

Manipulating the surface of liquid crystals. (Art courtesy of Felice Macera, Daniel Beller, Apiradee Honglawan and Simon Čopar)
Manipulating the surface of liquid crystals.

(Art courtesy of Felice Macera, Daniel Beller, Apiradee Honglawan and Simon Čopar)

Abstract:
Directed assembly is a growing field of research in nanotechnology in which scientists and engineers aim to manufacture structures on the smallest scales without having to individually manipulate each component. Rather, they set out precisely defined starting conditions and let the physics and chemistry that govern those components do the rest.

Penn Researchers Show New Level of Control Over Liquid Crystals

Philadelphia, PA | Posted on January 7th, 2013

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

The study was led by Shu Yang, associate professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Science's departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Kathleen Stebe, Engineering's vice dean for research and professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; and Randall Kamien, professor in the School of Arts and Sciences' Department of Physics and Astronomy. Apiradee Honglawan of Yang's lab, Daniel Beller of Kamien's group and Marcello Cavallaro Jr. of Stebe's lab also contributed to the research.

They came together through Penn's Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, which recently received a $21.7 million National Science Foundation grant to support this kind of interdisciplinary research. Stebe and Kamien are leaders of the Center's sub-group focused on elasticity in soft materials and knew they had the expertise on hand to do groundbreaking work with liquid crystals.

Their work was published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.

Crystals are materials that have molecules arrayed in regular three-dimensional 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.

Despite their name, such defects are highly desirable. If the location of the defects can be controlled, the change in pattern or orientation can be put to use. In a liquid crystal display, for example, the crystals' orientation in different regions determines which parts of the screen are illuminated.

"Liquid crystals naturally produce a pattern of close-packed defects on their surfaces," Yang said, "but it turns out that this pattern is often not that interesting for device applications. We want to arbitrarily manipulate that pattern on demand."

Electrical fields are often used to change the crystals' orientation, as in the case with liquid crystal displays, but the Penn research team was interested in manipulating defects by using a physical template. Employing a class of liquid crystals that forms stacks of layers spaced in nanometers — known as "smectic" liquid crystals — the researchers set out to show that, by altering the geometry of the molecules on the bottommost layer, they could produce changes in the patterns of defects on the topmost.

"The molecules can feel the geometry of the template, which creates a sort of elastic cue," Stebe said. "That cue is transmitted layer by layer, and the whole system responds."

The researchers' template was a series of microscopic posts arrayed like a bed of nails. By altering the size, shape, symmetry and spacing of these posts, as well as the thickness of the liquid crystal film, the researchers discovered they could make subtle changes in the patterns of the defects.

For example, a smectic liquid crystal that would naturally form a hexagonal array of dimple-like defects on its surface could be templated to form a square pattern or to have dimples that were more closely or loosely packed.

Critically, these induced defect patterns weren't one-to-one reproductions of the pattern of posts on the template layer. The researchers were able to generate more complex relationships, such as getting four defects to sit atop each circular post or defects that formed over the points of a triangular post. They were also able to deduce the rules that govern these relationships and predict what defect patterns a given set of post parameters would produce.

"The first layer's molecules tend to be pinned to the edges of the posts," Kamien said, "so changing a post's size and shape will change how many defects can sit on its edges at the same time."

The size discrepancy between the posts and individual molecules of the liquid crystal is also a key feature for using this class of liquid crystal in directed assembly. The posts are each a few microns wide and tall, still microscopically small, but large enough to be easily and economically made to specification. This is much more attractive than trying to directly control the size and arrangement of the liquid crystals' defects.

"The liquid crystal layers are very thin, so the defects are on the order of several nanometers across" Kamien said. "Those defects would normally be very hard to control, especially compared to the posts, which are more like a few thousand nanometers across."

Beyond sensors and displays, these defects can be used in nanomanufacturing.

"If you make defects like dimples, you could put ink in them and use them like a stamp," Kamien said. "Or you could make the inverse of the dimples and make points, which could be used as localized surface plasmon resonance hot spots for chemical and biological sensing or as a topographic protrusion for creating a superhydrophobic surface."

And because the layers of liquid crystals transmit elastic energy, they can also be used to do mechanical work. This means that the top layer could be used as a template to assemble even larger molecules.

"You could put nanoparticles, quantum dots or carbon nanotubes in the liquid crystal layers and they would be expelled into to the defects," Yang said.

A template consisting of circular posts could even be dynamically altered with heat and an electric field, for example, making the posts in a certain region elliptical. This microscopic geometric cue would travel up the layers of liquid crystal and produce micrometer-scale changes on the surface.

By establishing the mathematical relationships between the post parameters and the surface-layer defects, the researchers are laying the foundation of a directed assembly technique that can be used with any smectic liquid crystal.

"We are providing a very crude cue and getting exquisite molecular level organization," Stebe said. "Any liquid crystal that makes layers can now be used to make rather beautiful control over textures on the surface.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Evan Lerner

215-573-6604

Copyright © University of Pennsylvania

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Quantum memory with record-breaking capacity based on laser-cooled atoms December 15th, 2017

Record high photoconductivity for new metal-organic framework material December 15th, 2017

Error-free into the quantum computer age December 15th, 2017

Leti Will Demonstrate First 3D Anti-Crash Solution for Embedding in Drones: Fitted on a Mass-Market Microcontroller, 360Fusion Software Technology Detects any Dynamic Obstacle and Helps Guide Drones Away from Collisions December 15th, 2017

Physics

Columbia engineers create artificial graphene in a nanofabricated semiconductor structure: Researchers are the first to observe the electronic structure of graphene in an engineered semiconductor; finding could lead to progress in advanced optoelectronics and data processing December 13th, 2017

Leti Develops World’s First Micro-Coolers for CERN Particle Detectors: Leti Design, Fabrication and Packaging Expertise Extends to Very Large Scientific Instruments December 11th, 2017

Inorganic-organic halide perovskites for new photovoltaic technology November 6th, 2017

Chemistry

UCLA chemists synthesize narrow ribbons of graphene using only light and heat: Tiny structures could be next-generation solution for smaller electronic devices December 8th, 2017

Copper will replace toxic palladium and expensive platinum in the synthesis of medications: The effectiveness of copper nanoparticles as a catalyst has been proven December 5th, 2017

Display technology/LEDs/SS Lighting/OLEDs

Chinese market opens up for Carbodeon nanodiamonds: Carbodeon granted Chinese Patent for Nanodiamond-containing Thermoplastic Thermal Compounds December 4th, 2017

Graphene oxide making any material suitable to create biosensors: Scientists from Tomsk Polytechnic University have developed a new tool for biomedical research focused on single-cell investigation November 27th, 2017

The next generation of power electronics? Gallium nitride doped with beryllium: How to cut down energy loss in power electronics? The right kind of doping November 9th, 2017

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Synthetic protein packages its own genetic material and evolves computationally designed protein assemblies are advancing research in synthetic life and in targeted drug delivery December 15th, 2017

Sandia researchers make solid ground toward better lithium-ion battery interfaces: Reducing the traffic jam in batteries December 13th, 2017

Perking up and crimping the 'bristles' of polyelectrolyte brushes December 13th, 2017

Columbia engineers create artificial graphene in a nanofabricated semiconductor structure: Researchers are the first to observe the electronic structure of graphene in an engineered semiconductor; finding could lead to progress in advanced optoelectronics and data processing December 13th, 2017

Self Assembly

Physicists gain new insights into nanosystems with spherical confinement: Enormous potential for the targeted delivery of pharmaceutical agents and the creation of tailored nanoparticles July 27th, 2017

Oddball enzyme provides easy path to synthetic biomaterials May 17th, 2017

Nanotubes that build themselves April 14th, 2017

Nanocages for gold particles: what is happening inside? March 16th, 2017

Nanotubes/Buckyballs/Fullerenes/Nanorods

Scientists make transparent materials absorb light December 1st, 2017

Researchers advance technique to detect ovarian cancer: Rice, MD Anderson use fluorescent carbon nanotube probes to achieve first in vivo success November 30th, 2017

NanoSummit in Luxembourg: single wall carbon nanotubes have entered our lives as we approach a nanoaugmented future November 23rd, 2017

Fine felted nanotubes : Research team of Kiel University develops new composite material made of carbon nanotubes November 22nd, 2017

Discoveries

Quantum memory with record-breaking capacity based on laser-cooled atoms December 15th, 2017

Record high photoconductivity for new metal-organic framework material December 15th, 2017

Error-free into the quantum computer age December 15th, 2017

Synthetic protein packages its own genetic material and evolves computationally designed protein assemblies are advancing research in synthetic life and in targeted drug delivery December 15th, 2017

Announcements

Quantum memory with record-breaking capacity based on laser-cooled atoms December 15th, 2017

Record high photoconductivity for new metal-organic framework material December 15th, 2017

Error-free into the quantum computer age December 15th, 2017

Leti Will Demonstrate First 3D Anti-Crash Solution for Embedding in Drones: Fitted on a Mass-Market Microcontroller, 360Fusion Software Technology Detects any Dynamic Obstacle and Helps Guide Drones Away from Collisions December 15th, 2017

Quantum Dots/Rods

Quantum communications bend to our needs: By changing the wavelengths of entangled photons to those used in telecommunications, researchers see quantum technology take a major leap forward September 28th, 2017

Band Gaps, Made to Order: Engineers create atomically thin superlattice materials with precision September 26th, 2017

New approach on research and design for CQD catalysts in World Scientific NANO August 2nd, 2017

Coupling a nano-trumpet with a quantum dot enables precise position determination July 14th, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project