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Spectroscopy, structure and stability of liquid crystal dyes: from nematic to smectic hosts

Project Description


A variety of devices for colour and monochrome displays can be obtained by incorporating a dye as a guest in a liquid crystalline (LC) host, providing a flexible route to light-scattering devices that can operate in strong ambient light, including outdoors. The applications of such systems are typically focused on display devices at present, but they may also offer the opportunity to design and develop novel optical-sensing and -switching devices.

We have recently been carrying out experimental and computational studies of a set of anthraquinone dyes, nematic LC hosts, and dye-host systems. Most importantly, we have developed a new approach to understanding and simulating the behaviour of these dyes in a nematic LC host, revealing the various features of molecular structure that control the distinct differences in dye alignment and colour that are essential to device performance. Progress in understanding the fundamental interplay between the structure and properties of such dyes is important and has the potential for significant impact, both academic and commercial, because it provides a route to the rational design of new dyes and guest-host systems.


The aim of the studentship will be to develop these methods further, and to extend the work from nematic to smectic A LC hosts, which are more important for practical devices because they have better molecular alignment that may facilitate higher optical contrasts (stronger colour changes). One aspect of the work may be to use computational studies to identify synthetic targets among a proposed new class of anthraquinone dyes with nanosegregating groups, devised for specific smectic A hosts. More generally, the overall aim of the new studentship will be to develop our understanding of the fundamental physical chemistry that underlies these types of guest-host dye-LC systems by using a combination of experimental and computational approaches.

All research students follow our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills. All research students take the core training package which provides both a grounding in the skills required for their research, and transferable skills to enhance employability opportunities following graduation. Core training is progressive and takes place at appropriate points throughout a student’s higher degree programme, with the majority of training taking place in Year 1. In conjunction with the Core training, students, in consultation with their supervisor(s), select training related to the area of their research.

Training on this project will include a range of spectroscopic and computational techniques, focusing on physical chemistry and also including liquid crystal microscopy, X-ray diffraction, devices and applications. The student will have strong interactions with both Physical and Materials Chemistry groups in the Department, and close support from an experienced Experimental Officer. The student will be able to attend and present their results to at least one annual British Liquid Crystal Society Conference.

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel. Chemistry at York was the first academic department in the UK to receive the Athena SWAN Gold award, first attained in 2007 and then renewed in October 2010 and in April 2015.

Funding Notes

This project is open to students who can fund their own studies or who have been awarded a scholarship separate from this project. The Chemistry Department at York is pleased to offer Wild Fund Scholarships to those from countries outside the UK. Wild Fund Scholarships offer up to full tuition fees for those from countries from outside the European Union. EU students may also be offered £6,000 per year towards living costs. For further information see: View Website


Related publications
[1] M T Sims, L C Abbott, S J Cowling, J W Goodby and J N Moore, Chem. Eur. J. 21, 10123-10130 (2015)
[2] M T Sims, L C Abbott, S J Cowling, J W Goodby and J N Moore, J. Phys. Chem. C 120, 11151-11162 (2016)
[3] M T Sims, L C Abbott, S J Cowling, J W Goodby and J N Moore, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 18, 20651-20663 (2016)
[4] M T Sims, L C Abbott, S J Cowling, J W Goodby and J N Moore, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 19, 813-827 (2017)
[5] MT Sims, RJ Mandle, JW Goodby, JN Moore, Liquid Crystals 44, 2029 (2017)

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of York in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 47.06

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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