【R&D Department of Blaze Display】Liquid crystals, discovered more than 125 years ago, are at work behind the screens of TV and computer monitors, clocks, watches and most other electronics displays, and scientists are still discovering new twists—and bends—in their molecular makeup.
Liquid crystals are an exotic state of matter that flows like a fluid but in which the molecules may be oriented in a crystal-like way. At the microscopic scale, liquid crystals come in several different configurations, including a naturally spiraling “twist-bend” molecular arrangement, discovered in 2013, that has excited a flurry of new research.
Now, using a pioneering X-ray technique developed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), a research team has recorded the first direct measurements confirming a tightly wound spiral molecular arrangement that could help unravel the mysteries of its formation and possibly improve liquid-crystal display (LCD) performance, such as the speed at which they selectively switch light on or off in tiny screen areas.
The findings could also help explain how so-called “chiral” structure—molecules can exhibit wildly different properties based on their left- or right-handedness (chirality), which is of interest in biology, materials science and chemistry—can form from organic molecules that do not exhibit such handedness.
“This newly discovered ‘twist-bend’ phase of liquid crystals is one of the hottest topics in liquid crystal research,” said Chenhui Zhu, a research scientist at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS), where the X-ray studies were performed.