Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Crystallography
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

At Smallest Scale, Liquid Crystal Behaviour Portends New Materials

Published: Saturday, May 05, 2012
Last Updated: Thursday, May 10, 2012
Bookmark and Share
Latest research has shown that liquid crystals may have some new technological tricks in store.

An international team of researchers led by University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering Juan J. de Pablo reports the results of a computational study that shows liquid crystals, manipulated at the smallest scale, can unexpectedly induce the molecules they interact with to self-organize in ways that could lead to entirely new classes of materials with new properties.

A computational model shows nanospheres of liquid crystal materials. The different patterns represent the self organization of surfactants, the molecules the liquid crystals interact with at their surface interface.Image: Juan de Pablo.

"From an applied perspective, once we get to very small scales, it becomes incredibly difficult to pattern the structure of materials. But here we show it is possible to use liquid crystals to spontaneously create nanoscale morphologies we didn't know existed," says de Pablo of computer simulations that portray liquid crystals self-organizing at the molecular scale in ways that could lead to remarkable new materials with scores of technological applications.

As their name implies, liquid crystals exhibit the order of a solid crystal but flow like a liquid. Used in combination with polarizers, optical filters and electric fields, liquid crystals underlie the pixels that make sharp pictures on thin computer or television displays. Liquid crystal displays alone are a multibillion dollar industry. The technology has also been used to make ultrasensitive thermometers and has even been deployed in lasers, among other applications.

The new study modeled the behavior of thousands of rod-shaped liquid crystal molecules packed into nano-sized liquid droplets. It showed that the confined molecules self organize as the droplets are cooled. "At elevated temperatures, the droplets are disordered and the liquid is isotropic," de Pablo explains. "As you cool them down, they become ordered and form a liquid crystal phase. The liquid crystallinity within the droplets, surprisingly, induces water and other molecules at the interface of the droplets, known as surfactants, to organize into ordered nanodomains. This is a behavior that was not known."

In the absence of a liquid crystal, the molecules at the interface of the droplet adopt a homogeneous distribution. In the presence of a liquid crystal, however, they form an ordered nanostructure. "You have two things going on at the same time: confinement of the liquid crystals and an interplay of their structure with the interface of the droplet," notes de Pablo. "As you lower the temperature the liquid crystal starts to become organized and imprints that order into the surfactant itself, causing it to self assemble."

It was well known that interfaces influence the order or morphology of liquid crystals. The new study shows the opposite to be true as well.

"Now you can think of forming these ordered nanophases, controlling them through droplet size or surfactant concentration, and then decorating them to build up structures and create new classes of materials," says de Pablo.

As an example, de Pablo suggested that surfactants coupled to DNA molecules could be added to the surface of a liquid crystal droplets, which could then assemble through the hybridization of DNA. Such nanoscale engineering, he notes, could also form the basis for liquid crystal based detection of toxins, biological molecules, or viruses. A virus or protein binding to the droplet would change the way the surfactants and the liquid crystals within the droplet are organized, triggering an optical signal. Such a technology would have important uses in biosecurity, health care and biology research settings.

The new study was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) through the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, and the U.S. National Science Foundation. In addition to de Pablo, authors of the new report include former postdoctoral fellows J.A. Moreno-Razo and E.J. Sambriski, now at the Autonomous Metropolitan University of Mexico and Delaware Valley College, respectively; Nicholas L. Abbott, of UW-Madison; and J.P. Hernández-Ortiz of the National University of Colombia.


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,400+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.


Scientific News
TOPLESS Plants Provide Clues to Human Molecular Interactions
Scientists at Van Andel Research Institute have revealed an important molecular mechanism in plants that has significant similarities to certain signaling mechanisms in humans, which are closely linked to early embryonic development and to diseases such as cancer.
Advancing Cancer Drug Design with Image of Key Protein
Scientists have pioneered the use of a high-powered imaging technique to picture in exquisite detail one of the central proteins of life – a cellular recycling unit with a role in many diseases.
Mould Unlocks New Route to Biofuels
Scientists at The University of Manchester have made an important discovery that forms the basis for the development of new applications in biofuels and the sustainable manufacturing of chemicals.
'Invisible' Protein Structure Explains the Power of Enzymes
A research group at Umeå University in Sweden has managed to capture and describe a protein structure that, until now, has been impossible to study.
Unraveling the Elusive Structure of HIV Protein
Snapshots of HIV virus’ proteins may help design new ways to fight the disease.
Blueprinting Cell Membrane Proteins
Recent breakthrough will make the blueprinting process faster, easier and cheaper, and should have major implications in the field of drug discovery and development.
Bacteria Use Chemical Harpoons to Hold on Their Hosts
Researchers reveal how a common disease causing bacteria latches on to the body during an infection.
Solving Streptide from Structure to Biosynthesis
Researchers reveal new information about how bacteria communicate via the protein, streptide.
Near-Atomic Resolution of Protein Structure Holds Promise for Drug Discovery
A new study shows that it is possible to use an imaging technique called cryo-electron microscopy to view the architecture of a metabolic enzyme bound to a drug that blocks its activity.
X-ray Study May Aid in Designing Better Blood Pressure Drugs
New atomic-scale details could help create more effective medications with fewer side effects.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,400+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!