Article abstract

Nature Materials 3, 177 - 182 (2004)
Published online: 15 February 2004 | doi:10.1038/nmat1074

Subject Categories: Liquid crystals | Design synthesis and processing

Self-assembled liquid-crystalline gels designed from the bottom up

Michael D. Kempe1, Neal R. Scruggs1,3, Rafael Verduzco1,3, Jyotsana Lal2 & Julia A. Kornfield1

Liquid crystals are often combined with polymers to influence the liquid crystals' orientation and mechanical properties, but at the expense of reorientation speed or uniformity of alignment. We introduce a new method to create self-assembled nematic liquid-crystal gels using an ABA triblock copolymer with a side-group liquid-crystalline midblock and liquid-crystal-phobic endblocks. In contrast to in situ polymerized networks, these physical gels are homogeneous systems with a solubilized polymer network giving them exceptional optical uniformity and well-defined crosslink density. Furthermore, the unusually high-molecular-weight polymers used allow gels to form at lower concentrations than previously accessible. This enables these gels to be aligned by surface anchoring, shear, or magnetic fields. The high content of small-molecule liquid crystal (greater than or equal to95%) allows access to a regime of fast reorientation dynamics.

  1. California Institute of Technology, 1200 East California Boulevard, Pasadena, California 91125, USA
  2. Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 South Cass Avenue, Argonne, Illinois 60439, USA
  3. These authors contributed equally to the work

Correspondence to: Julia A. Kornfield1 e-mail:


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