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Liquid Crystals

Danielle Williams
Dept of Physics
University of Texas at Arlington
• Liquid crystals are very important in the study of optics,
chemistry and polymer science. The discovery of the
liquid crystal happened over a century and since this time
the phenomena has been applied to many products in our
society. This presentation will cover the properties,
different phases and uses of liquid crystals. It will also
give illustrations of liquid crystals from the micro
What are liquid crystals ?
Liquid crystals form from organic compounds and is
thought of as the phase of matter between the solid and
liquid state of a crystal.This phenomena was discovered in
1888 by Austrian chemist Frederich Reinitzer.
Nematic Phase

• Molecules in this phase

are long and rod-like in
shape. They are free to
move in space.
Chiral Nematic
• This phase is
composed of nematic
molecules in a helical
structure about the
layer normal.
• The distance that it
takes for the molecules
to complete one turn is
called the pitch.
λ = n*p*cosθ
Smectic Phase
• This phase can be
reached at lower
temperatures than the
nematic phase.
• Molecules align
themselves in layers.
(They are restricted to
their plane.)
• More order and higher
Columnar Phase
• Characterized by its stacked columns of
• Discovered in 1977 by Chandrasekhar
Order Parameter
S = ½<(3cos²θ-1)>
The order parameter in a liquid crystal
range from 0.3 to 0.9
Electric field Effects
• If an electric field is
applied to a liquid
crystal the molecules
will align in the same
direction as the field.
Twisted Nematic
• This is called the
twisted nematic liquid
crystal and the spacing
between the planes
change with
temperature. The
spacing is associated
with the wavelengths
of light.
Uses of Liquid Crystals
• Flat screen television
• Wristwatches
• Laptop screens
• Digital clocks
• Thermometers
• Switchable windows
• We know today that many chemical compounds can
exist in the liquid crystal state, such as cholesteryl
benzoate. Thanks to the scientists that worked so
diligently toward understanding this phenomenon, the
world can focus on ways to make this product useful in
society. Over the last century many applications such
as the detection of hot points in microcircuits, the
findings of fractures or tumors in humans and the
conversion of infared images have become accessible
due to the understanding of pitch in a liquid crystal.
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