The Advanced Materials and Liquid Crystal Institute

Established by the Kent University Board of Trustees, effective Fall 2018, the Liquid Crystal Institute will become the Advanced Materials and Liquid Crystal Institute (AMLCI). The foci will be on responsive materials the embrace a broad array of advance material on campus. Materials that respond to the environment. The AMLCI builds upon the Glenn H Brown Liquid Crystal Institute's 50-year legacy of world class research and draws in equal measure upon our broad and versatile clusters of advanced materials expertise.

The interface between liquid crystals and nanomaterials is interrogated in a variety of advanced materials fields such as: materials science, nanotechnology, optics, lasers, sensors, biological materials, thin films, colloids, biomaterials, photonics, metamaterials, tissue engineering, imaging, self-assembly, hierarchical materials, polymers, nanocomposites, nanoparticles.

The Glenn H. Brown Liquid Crystal Institute

The LCI was named in honor of its founder, Dr. Glenn H. Brown, by the Kent State University Board of Trustees in 1986. Brown, a faculty member in Kent's Chemistry Department from 1961-1985 and Regents Professor from 1968-1985, established the LCI in 1965 and served as its director until his retirement in 1983. In 1965, the Kent State University Board of Trustees authorized the formation of the Liquid Crystal Institute under Glenn Brown's direction. Other scientists at Kent joined in seeking funding for liquid crystal research. Major grants came from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and U.S. defense agencies. Research at the Institute, in collaboration with the Departments of Chemistry and Physics, helped establish the field of liquid crystals as an active area in both of these disciplines.

In 1990, the National Science Foundation selected a consortium of Kent State University, Case Western Reserve University, and the University of Akron to serve as Ohio's only Science and Technology Research Center. ALCOM, the Center for Advanced Liquid Crystalline Optical Materials, is an interdisciplinary, national center for advanced research and development of liquid crystal optoelectronic materials, technology, and consumer products. Kent State University's new Liquid Crystal and Materials Sciences building was completed in Fall 1996. The three-story facility provides 65,000 gross square feet to house the Liquid Crystal Institute and the Chemical Physics Interdisciplinary Program. The building includes classrooms, a 150 seat auditorium, 22,000 square feet of research laboratories for more than 25 individual labs, clean rooms (for creating prototype liquid crystal displays and training students and technicians in display manufacturing techniques), offices, a display manufacturing line, and associated service and support facilities.

LCI Directors

  • Glenn Brown
    Glenn H. Brown
    1965 - 1983

  • J. William Doane
    1983 - 1995
  • John L. West
    John L. West
    1995 - 2003
  • Oleg Lavrentovich
    Oleg D. Lavrentovich
    2003 - 2011
  • Hiroshi Yokoyama
    Hiroshi Yokoyama
    2011 - 2016
  • John L West
    John L. West Interim

Biography of Glenn Halstead Brown, 1915 - 1995

Written by Dr. Mary E. Neubert. From the June 1995 issue of Liquid Crystals, newsletter of the International Liquid Crystal Society, vol. 5, no. 2. (Reproduced with permission of Taylor & Francis Publishers, U.K.)

Born in Logan, Ohio, on September 10, 1915, Glenn received his BS (1939) at Ohio University, his MIS (1941) at Ohio State University and his PhD (1951) at Iowa State University. He taught Chemistry as an instructor at the University of Mississippi (1941-1942) and as an assistant professor at the University of Vermont (1950-1952). He then moved to the University of Cincinnati where he was promoted to associate professor and taught Chemistry (1952-1960). In 1960, he came to Kent State University as a professor to head the Chemistry Department where he successfully built a PhD program. He served as Chairman from 1960-1965, as Dean of Research from 1963-1968, and Director of the Liquid Crystal Institute from 1965-1983. He became Kent's only Regent's Professor in 1968.

He was a member of many scientific groups: American Chemical Society (ACS), Sigma Xi, Ohio Academy of Science (OAS), American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Institute of Chemists, American Crystallographic Association and the New York Academy of Science. He was very active in ACS and OAS (president, 1960) for which he received several awards: Distinguished Service Award from the Akron section ACS (1971), Morley Award from the Cleveland section ACS (1977) and Distinguished Service Award from OAS (1966).

His contributions to work in liquid crystals were recognized by other awards: Honorary DSc degrees from Bowling Green State University (1972) and Ohio University (1986); the President's Medal from Kent State University (1980); the Liquid Crystal Institute renamed the Glenn H. Brown Liquid Crystal Institute (1986); Special Recognition for Excellence Award from Ohio's Governor Richard Celeste (1986); and the establishment of the Glenn Brown Dissertation Award by the International Liquid Crystal Society (1985).

On March 18, 1965, the board of trustees at Kent State University with the urging of President Robert I. White authorized the formation of the Liquid Crystal Institute under Glenn Brown's direction. The LCI started with one graduate student and a budget of $21,000 per year. Other scientists at Kent joined Glenn in seeking funding for liquid crystal research. Major grants came from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Army and Air Force. This early funding helped establish the reputation of the Institute. Continual growth led to a move into a new building in 1986. Even then it was obvious that the Institute would soon need a larger facility. In just ten years after this move, the Institute will move into a new and much larger building in 1996.

Presently, the Glenn H. Brown Liquid Crystal Institute stands as an impressive tribute to its founder. Another living tribute to Glenn is the International Liquid Crystal Conference. As Glenn stimulated interest in liquid crystals among scientists, it soon became apparent that a forum was needed in order to exchange ideas and information. In 1965, he organized the first conference which was held in Kent with most of the funding committed only if it was successful. The 129 registrants made it a success and the conferences continue every two years. Science registrants at the 1994 conference in Budapest numbered 600. The conference will return to Kent in 1996.

Glenn Brown's interest in liquid crystals began at the University of Cincinnati when he was looking for an interesting research topic for his graduate students. He and one of his students, W.G. Shaw, wrote a review of the then current literature on liquid crystals, 'The Mesomorphic State', for Chemical Reviews (1956). This article was instrumental in educating many scientists about liquid crystals and stimulating their interest. Equally stimulating is an article 'Liquid Crystals' written later for undergraduate/ high school students in Chemistry (1967). Glenn Brown became an editor and later editor-in-chief of Molecular Crystals and Liquid Crystals as well as editor-in -chief of the Letters section. He also edited a series of six volumes of Advances in Liquid Crystals (Academic Press). He wrote numerous review articles, many of which are particularly helpful for beginning researchers. Glenn's own research interest was first in the structures of liquid crystalline phases as determined by X-ray crystallography. Later, he became convinced that the most exciting topics were lyotropic and biological liquid crystals.

To Glenn Brown, liquid crystals were his life. He shared it with the world and with a very special person, his wife Jessie. They were married early in his career in 1943 and had four children: Larry, Donald, Nancy and Barbara. In his later years, Glenn had three grandchildren to enjoy. He loved baseball almost as much as liquid crystals, and the first international conference included a ball game. Glenn Brown touched the lives of many of us in the liquid crystal community. When he went to a meeting, he talked to every scientist he could, whether a student or a professor. Often the people he met were invited to Kent to give a seminar and always they were asked to send a reprint of their work when published. Unfortunately, Parkinson's disease prevented Glenn from continuing to talk about liquid crystals and he reluctantly retired in 1985.

Today, Glenn Brown no longer needs to convince people that liquid crystals are worthy of their time, that they are not impure organic compounds. The Glenn H. Brown Award from the International Liquid Crystal Society recognized Glenn's contributions and the support and encouragement he extended to young scientists. For those of us who knew him, the name Glenn Brown is synonymous with the term liquid crystals.

Glenn H. Brown died at Kent, Ohio, on April 18, 1995, in the 30th anniversary year of the International Liquid Crystal Conference that he founded in 1965.

What Are Liquid Crystals?

The Discovery

The well-known three states of matter are solid, liquid and gas. When cooled, gas condenses to form a liquid as you see in a warm room in winter where water vapor forms dew on glass windows cooled by the cold air outside. In the gas state, molecules are free to move around pretty much independent from each other except for occasional collisions. Molecules in the liquid state are less mobile and closer to each other. Frequent collisions between molecules make the liquid more viscous, yet it can still flow like "liquid." As the liquid is further cooled, say at the freezing point of water 0℃ (32℉), it is transformed to a solid, which is rigid; water freezes to become ice at 0℃ (32℉). Until two scientists in Europe, Friedrich Reinitzer and Otto Lehmann, discovered liquid crystals in the late 19th century, these three were the only states of matter that humans have ever known.

Liquid crystal is the fourth state of matter that occurs between solid and liquid. While studying the function of cholesterol in plants, Friedrich Reinitzer, an Austrian botanist, found an unusual melting that was always accompanied by the presence of cloudy liquid state before the clear liquid appears. This cloudy liquid is what is now known as "liquid crystal." Intrigued by this unusual observation, Reinitzer sent the sample 1 to a renowned German crystallographer, Otto Lehmann. Through his careful observations of the melting of the substance using his state-of-the-art microscope with a gas heating stage, Lehmann was convinced that the cloudy state is truly a new state of matter that differs from solid, liquid and gas. The year 1888, in which Reinitzer found this double melting phenomenon, is officially recognized as the year of discovery of liquid crystals. 

  • Friedrich Reinitzer
    Friedrich Reinitzer
    Austrian botanist, born Feb. 25, 1857, in Prague, and died Feb. 16, 1927, in Graz.
  • Otto Lehmann
    Otto Lehmann
    German physicist, born Jan. 13, 1855, in Konstanz and died June 17, 1922, in Karlsruhe.

What you see in this small glass vial is a liquid crystal. It is opaque and flows like ordinary oil. To demonstrate the phase change from the liquid crystal state to the ordinary liquid, the glass vial is inserted in hot water. As it is heated, the cloudy look disappears, rapidly taken over by a clear liquid. Finally, it becomes completely transparent. It is now taken out of the hot bath and is kept in air. As it is cooled down, the initial opacity reappears.

Further Readings:

  • Hans Kelker, "History of Liquid Crystals," Mol. Cryst. Liq. Cryst. 21,1-48(1973).
  • Hans Kelker, "Survey of the Early History of Liquid Crystals," Mol. Cryst. Liq. Cryst. 165,1-43(1988).
  • Peter M. Knoll, Hans Kelker, "Otto Lehmann," BoD – Books on Demand, 2010.

Notes and References:

The samples Reinitzer sent to Lehmann were cholesterol-acetate (1)  and cholesterol-benzoate (2), which have a cholesteric (or twisted nematic) phase above 100℃. 

Chemical Structure 1Chemical Structure 2