CU research could lead to better LCDs

BOULDER – By showing that tiny particles injected into a liquid crystal medium adhere to existing mathematical theorems, physicists at the University of Colorado-Boulder have opened the door for the creation of a host of new materials with properties that do not exist in nature.

The research could lead to upgrades in liquid crystal displays, or LCDs, such as those used in laptops and television screens, to allow them to interact with light in new and different ways. One possibility is to create liquid crystal displays that are even more energy efficient, extending the battery life for the devices to which they power, said Ivan Smalyukh, a study senior author and an assistant professor at CU-Boulder’s physics department.

The findings show that researchers can create a “recipe book” to build new materials of sorts using topology, a major mathematical field that describes the properties that do not change when an object is stretched, bent or otherwise “continuously deformed.” Published online Dec. 23 in the journal Nature, the study also is the first to experimentally show that some of the most important topological theorems hold up in the real material world, Smalyukh said.

The research was funded in part by Smalyukh’s Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, which he received from President Obama in 2010. And the research supports the goals laid out by the White House’s Materials Genome Initiative, Smalyukh said, which seeks to deploy “new advanced materials at least twice as fast as possible today, at a fraction of the cost.”

The study was co-authored by Sailing He of Zhejiang University in China; Randall Kamien and Tom Lubensky of the University of Pennsylvania, and Robert Kusner of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

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