Lavrentovich Paints a Clearer Picture of Bacteria
The immediate application of the products of scientific research is not always apparent: that doesn’t make the work any less groundbreaking. Faculty at the Liquid Crystal Institute at Kent State University are constantly pushing the envelope to learn about novel states of matter, and develop new ways to make nature work for mankind through liquid crystal technology.
Oleg Lavrentovich is the Trustees Research Professor in the Chemical Physics Interdisciplinary program at the LCI. He’s been here since 1992, and has plenty to show for it.
Liquid crystal display (LCD) screens are made of flexible material, and when an electric charge is applied, it realigns the molecules. When light comes through the cell, brightness and intensity can be modulated.
Today, LCD screens require color filters to be applied over the top of the cells. Lavrentovich’s lab figured out how to change the molecular structure of the liquid crystal cells to make them not only more transparent, but to naturally take on color themselves, eliminating the need for filters.
Where he has taken his research since then has to be seen to be believed.
Lavrentovich’s team has begun to research how bacteria — which outnumber all other life forms on earth and are in constant motion — can be used as an untapped source of energy if immersed in a liquid crystal environment.
In water alone, where they usually thrive, bacteria move where they please, with no apparent order or direction. By replacing the water with a structured liquid crystal environment, Lavrentovich and his student researchers have discovered that bacteria can be made to move in a fixed pattern, and even move other microscopic materials.
“We don’t know yet what can be done with this,” he said. “But the fact that we can control the kinetic movement on a micro scale, that eventually could lead to something much more impactful than liquid crystal displays.
Lavrentovich holds fellowships in the International Society for Optical Engineering, and the American Physical Society.