Supervisor: Francesca Serra
The term “liquid crystal” defines a phase of matter intermediate between liquid and solid: liquid crystal molecules can flow like liquids but they have some molecular order like solids. The molecular order in liquid crystals can vary. The lowest degree of order can be simply in the molecular orientation, i.e. all the molecules tend to be aligned in a uniform direction. This is the common “nematic liquid crystal” phase, often used in liquid crystal displays. On the opposite end, the most complex of all liquid crystal phases are the so-called “blue phases”, where molecules twist into helices and the helices pack into a regular 3D structure (but it is still not a solid!). Blue phase liquid crystals work as photonic crystals and strongly reflect blue or green light.
The first part of the project involves the preparation of and characterization of mixtures of liquid crystals that will form blue phases. The second part will involve stabilizing the blue phases with liquid crystal polymer, from which the liquid crystal can then be washed away, while the polymer scaffold still retains its photonic properties.