|At Smallest Scale, Liquid Crystal Behavior Portends New Materials|
An international team of researchers led by University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering Juan J. de Pablo reports in the May 3 edition of the journal Nature , 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.
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."
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