Case Western Reserve University
Department of Physics
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Liquid Crystals and Patterned Surfaces
Liquid crystals, fluids that exhibit long range molecular ordering, are of tremendous commercial importance in switchable optical devices such as displays. They exhibit interesting physics: the competing influence of different, and opposing, physical effects such as surface alignment, chirality, applied electromagnetic fields and preferred ordering may cause the system to self-organize into some compromise configuration. A recent innovation has been to use surface micro- and nano-patterning techniques as a route to carefully control the alignment boundary conditions on the liquid crystal. A rich variety of structures result: the role of the theoretician here is to predict the configuration(s) adopted by the system, evaluate their stability, calculate energy differences between stable states and to identify which effects are most significant in causing a particular structure. I present a selection of examples from my work with experimentalists and discuss promising applications for these effects in systems such as electronic paper and switchable metamaterials.