Working in close co-operation with experimentalists in the Physics Department and Liquid Crystal Institute, Professor Allender and his students apply various techniques of theoretical condensed matter physics to the description of liquid crystal materials and the wide variety of phase transitions they undergo. These transitions can be induced by varying temperature, the nature of the surfaces confining the liquid crystal sample, and the direction and strength of electric, magnetic and optical fields.
As an example, Allender's group has used Landau's concepts of phase transitions and ordering to study liquid crystalline material confined to sub-micron cavities where the effects of the surface can produce behavior quite different from bulk systems. Novel elastic properties were predicted and subsequently verified experimentally. Other topics of recent interest include biaxiality at the surface and in the bulk, field effects in chiral phases, and periodic structure formation. The ideas developed here are useful in other areas of condensed matter physics such as melting, the spontaneous growth of spatially periodic structures, and optics.
Allender maintains active collaborations with numerous groups including colleagues at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. Continuity with forefront research is facilitated by involvement with both national and international conferences.