NEWLY DEVELOPED LIQUID CRYSTAL ELASTOMER MATERIAL COULD ENABLE ADVANCED SENSORS, KENT STATE RESEARCHERS SAY | Kent State University

NEWLY DEVELOPED LIQUID CRYSTAL ELASTOMER MATERIAL COULD ENABLE ADVANCED SENSORS, KENT STATE RESEARCHERS SAY

Liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs), essentially rubbers with liquid crystal properties, can do a number of fascinating things, especially in the fields of optics, photonics, telecommunications and medicine. They can curl up, bend, twist, wrinkle and stretch when exposed to light, heat, gases and other stimuli. Because they are so responsive, they are ideal for applications like artificial muscles and blood vessels, actuators, sensors, plastic motors and drug delivery systems. They can even be used as a mechanically tunable mirrorless “rubber” laser. 

In the College of Arts and Sciences at Kent State University, Peter Palffy-Muhoray, Ph.D., associate director of the Glenn H. Brown Liquid Crystal Institute® and professor of chemical physics, has been collaborating with the world’s experts in liquid crystal elastomers research for many years. Recently, he and his graduate assistant, Andrii Varanytsia, and Kenji Urayama and Hama Nagai from the Kyoto Institute of Technology in Japan developed the first type of cholesteric liquid crystal elastomers with special properties that enable it to precisely emit laser light, without the use of mirrors, while being stretched. 

Lasers consist of cavities, typically formed by fixed mirrors. Light bouncing between these has a characteristic frequency, just like a guitar string of a certain length. Light-emitting material in the cavity amplifies the light wave, which is then emitted at a precise frequency – like a pure tone from some musical instrument. 

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