Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder Materials Research Center have discovered an elusive material phase that was first proposed more than 100 years ago. Since it was first proposed, scientists have been trying to find evidence of the phase. A new study published recently describes the “iron wire grain” phase of a liquid crystal. The researchers say the discovery opens the door to a new material universe.
The phase-to-phase liquid crystal, which has been studied since the 1970s, exhibits a mixture of fluids and solids that allows them to control light. They are widely used to make liquid crystal displays in laptops, TVs and smartphones. If the column-phase liquid crystal falls on the table like a needle, the blunt end will have a positive charge and the tip will be negatively charged, the researchers said. For the traditional column-oriented LIQUID, half of the pins point to the left and the other half to the right, with a random selection of directions.
An iron-electric column phase LCD phase will have more orderly molecules, all pointing in the same direction, whether left or right. In physics, materials have so-called polarity sorting. The researchers say the discovery of such a liquid crystal could turn on a range of technological innovations, from new displays to new computer memory. RM734 is an organic molecule created a few years ago by a group of British scientists.
The researchers who discovered the molecule reported that at higher temperatures, it presented a traditional phase of the liquid crystal, but at lower temperatures, an unusual phase appeared. When researchers at the University of Colorado observed this unusual phase under a microscope, they noticed that under a weak electric field, a palette of cell edges containing liquid crystals formed.
After additional testing, the team found that the RM734 responded to the electric field 100 to 1,000 times as much as the normal column liquid crystal. The results show that the molecules that make up the liquid crystal have a strong polar ity sequence. They also found that when cooled from higher temperatures, the molecules in the sample appeared to line up. One researcher said the discovery confirmed that the phase was an iron-to-electrical column fluid. The team intends to continue to study RM734 to discover how it can achieve this rare feat.