Computation and Theory of Soft Materials

Royal Society of Edinburgh Network on Nematic-Based Materials for the Next Generation of Applications

This network on Nematic-Based Materials for the Next Generation of Applications is a Scotland-centric network in liquid crystals, boasting of strong connections with the UK-wide British Liquid Crystal Society and international connections in Europe, Asia and USA.

Liquid crystals are quintessential examples of partially ordered materials that combine fluidity with the structural order of solids. Liquid crystals are typically anisotropic or directional materials with distinguished material directions referred to as "directors". Consequently, liquid crystals have direction-dependent optical, physical and mechanical properties and this directionality or anisotropy makes them the working material of choice for a range of electro-optic devices, notably the multi-billion dollar liquid crystal display (LCD) industry.

There are now new waves of research in liquid crystals-based materials, for fundamental scientific reasons and for exciting applications in futuristic materials technologies. Scotland has long been at the forefront of nematic liquid crystals (NLC) research with pioneering research undertaken by Professor George Gray in chemistry, Professor Frank Leslie in theory and Professor Ian Shanks in technology/development. Scotland now boasts of some of the strongest UK groups in theory (Strathclyde, Glasgow), microelectronics (Edinburgh), chemistry (Aberdeen). This network on Nematic-Based Materials for the Next Generation of Applications will consolidate the separate research groups, to build a world-leading, forward-looking and sustainable Scotland-centric NLC-research network, with excellent UK, global and industrial connections. There will be focus on
  • active liquid crystals relevant for biological systems -- liquid crystals with internal stresses that constantly drive the system out of equilibrium and demonstrate exotic pattern formation;

  • chiral NLCs for which the constituent molecules naturally twist and are used in lasers and sensors;

  • colloids or suspensions of micro- and nano-particles in NLC systems for applications as photonic materials and metamaterials;

  • novel liquid crystal applications in energy harvesting and energy storage i.e. for flexible, low-cost and responsive energy storage devices.

The network leaders will organise approximately 4 working groups throughout the network duration of 24 months to focus on emerging questions in interdisciplinary liquid crystal research, along with a few research workshops. More details will be published in due course.
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