Researchers from the United States deformed liquid crystals and created from them displays and sensors that automatically measure temperature and many other indicators.
Scientists at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago were inspired by the design of chameleons and developed a method for stretching and deforming liquid crystals to produce different colors. To do this, they created a thin polymer film filled with liquid crystal droplets and then changed it to get a color change system that can be used for smart coatings, sensors, and even electronics.
Liquid crystals with a clear molecular orientation are already the basis of many displays. But in this case, the researchers became interested in cholesteric liquid crystals without central symmetry. These crystals can form “blue phase crystals,” which have the properties of both liquids and crystals, and in some cases can transmit or reflect light better than liquid crystals.
Researchers knew that these crystals could be manipulated to produce a wide range of optical effects. But they cannot be deformed directly, so they were placed in a polymer film.
Thus, the researchers discovered many more different phases of the molecular configurations of crystals than was previously known. These phases produce different colors depending on how they stretch or deform, or when they undergo temperature changes.
The system can be used to automatically measure the deformation of the wings of an aircraft, detect minor changes in temperature in the room. Color change provides a great way to measure non-contact.
Researchers plan to try other influences – magnetic and acoustic fields to test how crystals react to them.