"Exploring Materials - Liquid Crystals" is a hands on activity demonstrating that the way a material behaves on the macroscale is affected by its structure on the nanoscale. Visitors investigate the properties of a heat sensitive liquid crystal and make their own liquid crystal sensor to take home.
This is an optical microscope image of a liquid crystal (Cromlyn in water). The colors are created by molecular variations or changes in the crystal's thickness.
Liquid crystals have properties of both liquids and solids: Although they can flow like a fluid, their molecules are highly ordered, like those found in solid crystals. The ubiquitous liquid crystal displays (LCDs) found in everything from watches to cell phones are made possible by devices that rapidly alter the structure of these substances—and therefore the way they interact with light.
"Liquid Crystals" is a group of hands-on activities and experiments developed at UW-MRSEC that explore how liquid crystals change color as their temperature changes. There are instructions for preparing liquid crystal mixtures, a thermometer and a pixel. There is also background information about how liquid crystals work. Teacher's guides, transparencies and student worksheets are included for the activities.