Liquid Crystal Institute discovers new phenomenon

Frank Yonkof

A new discovery by Kent State’s Liquid Crystal Institute could change the face of the liquid crystal industry — and your Kindle.

A team of researchers discovered a new version of electrophoresis, a technique using an applied electric field to move tiny particles in fluid.

People have seen this phenomenon in water for over 100 years, said LCI Director Oleg Lavrentovich. But the team used liquid crystals as the fluid. The discovery could lead to new uses in display technology and microfluidic devices.

“Before we can think about technologies, we have to understand how things work, like how the electrons move to create electricity,” Lavrentovich said. “Once we understand the physics of the phenomenon, we can think about applications.”

Devices like Amazon’s Kindle work on the electrophoretic motion of particles in regular fluid. By adding liquid crystals into the mix, new features could potentially be added to the Kindle, such as a colored screen.

Electrophoresis was normally associated with direct current, but the new research shows an alternating current can also be used. This keeps the flow of particles from stopping. The new effect, caused by liquid crystals, allows control over the direction of the particles.

Lavrentovich, graduate student Israel Lazo and former graduate Oleg Pishnyak, who now works as a scientist for Kent Displays, have been working on the project for the last four years. Their findings were published in this month’s issue of Nature magazine, an international weekly journal of science.

Since the publication, the team has been receiving feedback from around the country and overseas.

Contact Frank Yonkof at [email protected].