Reconfiguration of three-dimensional liquid-crystalline photonic crystals by electrostriction

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Natural self-assembled three-dimensional photonic crystals such as blue-phase liquid crystals typically assume cubic lattice structures. Nonetheless, blue-phase liquid crystals with distinct crystal symmetries and thus band structures will be advantageous for optical applications. Here we use repetitive electrical pulses to reconfigure blue-phase liquid crystals into stable orthorhombic and tetragonal lattices. This approach, termed repetitively applied field, allows the system to relax between each pulse, gradually transforming the initial cubic lattice into various intermediate metastable states until a stable non-cubic crystal is achieved. We show that this technique is suitable for engineering non-cubic lattices with tailored photonic bandgaps, associated dispersion and band structure across the entire visible spectrum in blue-phase liquid crystals with distinct composition and initial crystal orientation. These field-free blue-phase liquid crystals exhibit large electro-optic responses and can be polymer-stabilized to have a wide operating temperature range and submillisecond response speed, which are promising properties for information display, electro-optics, nonlinear optics, microlasers and biosensing applications.

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Fig. 1: Electrostriction dynamics of BPLCs.
Fig. 2: Electrostriction dynamics in BPI and the strategy to produce enhanced crystalline distortion.
Fig. 3: RAF electrical treatment.
Fig. 4: Optical characterizations and stability of RAF-treated BPLCs of different pitches.
Fig. 5: Control of lattice non-cubicity.
Fig. 6: Polymer-stabilized non-cubic blue phases.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available within the article and its supplementary information files and from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.


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This research was funded by the Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development (AOARD), Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), grant no. FA2386-18-1-4039; work at NSYSU was partially supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan, grant no. MOST 106-2112-M-110-003-MY3; work at PSU was supported by a grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory and the W. E. Leonhard Chair Professorship.

Author information

T.-H.L., I.C.K. and T.J.B. identified the significance of this work. C.-W.C. and C.-C.L. conducted the initial feasibility experiments. D.-Y.G. carried out the detailed experimental study with assistance from K.-H.L., T.-M.F., H.-C.J. and C.-T.W. C.-W.C. performed the data analysis with assistance from D.-Y.G. and under the supervision of I.C.K. and T.-H.L. All authors participated in discussion. C.-W.C., I.C.K., D.-Y.G., T.J.B. and T.-H.L. authored the manuscript.

Correspondence to Iam Choon Khoo or Tsung-Hsien Lin.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Notes 1–10, Figs. 1–9, references and Supplementary Video 1 legend.

Supplementary Video 1

Kossel diffraction pattern evolution of a blue-phase I liquid crystal through cubic, orthorhombic and tetragonal symmetry.

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Guo, D., Chen, C., Li, C. et al. Reconfiguration of three-dimensional liquid-crystalline photonic crystals by electrostriction. Nat. Mater. (2019) doi:10.1038/s41563-019-0512-3

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