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Francesca Serra

Associate Professor

Phone: +45 6550 7242
Email: serra@sdu.dk
Webpage: https://sites.google.com/view/serralab-sdu-jhu/home

We are an experimental research group interested in soft materials, and especially in liquid crystals. These fascinating materials share some properties of liquids and some properties of solids: they can flow like liquids but their molecules are oriented in space along a uniform direction, like solids. Liquid crystals are familiar to all of us for their use in displays (LCD). However, while liquid crystals in displays are usually "well-behaved" ordered fluids, interesting properties emerge when these materials are under confinement and forced to form localized regions of disordered called topological defects.

Our research develops in two main directions. On the one hand, we are interested in studying how topological defects form in liquid crystals, how they can be controlled and manipulated, and how they can be useful for optics, for example creating “soft” micro-lenses or waveguides.

Liquid crystals, however, are interesting also for other reasons. In fact, their behavior shows analogy with the behavior of many types of living cells, which are elongated and tend to align with each other. We are interested in understanding the analogies and differences between layers of cells and liquid crystals, focusing especially on the behavior near topological defects, i.e. the regions where cells are misaligned. This provides special insights in the principles behind cells self-organization and in possible mechanisms for the formation of 3D structures in living systems.

 

Professional profile and collaborators at SDU: PhyLife