PerspectiveActuating Materials

Shape-shifting liquid crystals

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Science  27 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6225, pp. 949-950
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa6579

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Summary

Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) contain tens of thousands of pixels filled with a birefringent fluid known as a liquid crystal, in which molecular orientations fluctuate (like a liquid) but still have an average alignment (like a crystal). The moving images we see on a display are created by controlling the net orientation of the molecules, which changes the optical polarization of the liquid so that it either blocks or transmits light. But what if instead of producing an image on a flat screen, your LCD television could transform into different three-dimensional (3D) objects, and then back to a flat screen? Is it possible for soft materials to reproduce shapes instead of images? On page 982 of this issue, Ware et al. (1) demonstrate this possibility with liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs).