Chameleons are known for their ability to change the color of their skin. This is because the nervous system instructs skin tissue, for nanocrystals within them to expand or contract depending on the body temperature or mood. The reptile’s skin changes color into a rainbow of colors depending on how the nanocrystals reflect light.
This concept inspired scientists at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering to develop a way to strain and stretch liquid crystals to generate different colors.
The team of scientists created a thin strip of polymer filled with liquid crystal droplets and then manipulated it. By doing this, they have learned the fundamentals of a color-changing sensing system. This could be used for sensors, smart coatings, and even wearable electronics.
Array of Properties of Chiral Liquid Crystals gather interest of Researchers
Meanwhile, liquid crystals are already the basis for several display technologies. But, the team of researchers were interested in chiral liquid crystals, with twists and turns and certain asymmetrical handedness. These chiral liquid crystals have left-handedness or right-handedness that allows them to feature more interesting optical behaviors.
Moreover, chiral liquid crystals can also form blue-phase crystals. These have the properties of liquids as well as crystals and can sometimes transmit or reflect visible light better than liquid crystals.
Whilst, the researchers knew the crystals could potentially be altered to produce a vast range of optical effects if strained or stretched, they knew it’s not possible to strain or stretch a liquid directly. For this, they put tiny little crystal droplets into a polymer film.
This thus enabled the research team to encapsulate chiral liquid crystals and deform them in highly specific and highly controlled ways. This allows to understand the properties of chiral liquid crystals can feature and the behaviors they exhibit.