Introduction to Liquid Crystals
Liquid crystals (LCs) are matter in a state that has properties between those of conventional liquid and those of solid crystal. Liquid crystal materials are unique in their properties and uses. As research into this field continues and as new applications are developed, liquid crystals will play an important role in modern technology. This tutorial provides an introduction to the science and applications of these materials. For instance, an LC may flow like a liquid, but its molecules may be orientated in a crystal-like way.
There are many different types of LC phases, which can be distinguished by their different optical properties (such as birefringence). When viewed under a microscope using a polarized light source, different liquid crystal phases will appear to have distinct textures. The contrasting areas in the textures correspond to domains where the LC molecules are oriented in different directions. Within a domain, however, the molecules are well ordered. LC materials may not always be in an LC phase (just as water may turn into ice or steam).
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