1st September 2008 – Liquid Crystals

What are they and why are they appearing everywhere?

Professor Helen Gleeson from Manchester University helped us understand how something can be both a liquid and a crystal.

Normally, we consider matter to have three distinct states: solid, liquid and gas. However, there are states of matter which do not meet the necessary requirements of any of these three categories. For example, a substances such as mayonnaise is somewhere between a liquid and a solid. Mayonnaise is not a liquid crystal but liquid crystals do seem to occupy a place in between a liquid and a solid. Liquid crystals seem to manage to preserve their orientation in space like a crystal even though, like a liquid, they can move freely around. They seem to be able to polarise light in many directions in an organised way which allows them to vary their colour. Which is why they seem to be popping up everywhere in electronic devices from phones to televisions.

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