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Synthesis and characterisation of new heliconical liquid crystals

   Department of Chemistry

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  Prof C T Imrie, Prof J M D Storey  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Liquid crystals are often referred to as the fourth state of matter and are perhaps most familiar to us through the ubiquitous liquid crystal displays but are far more common than that. Every time you use soap, you are using a liquid crystal, and cell membranes are also liquid crystalline. Research in Aberdeen focuses on the relationships between molecular structure and liquid crystallinity and involves both the synthesis of new materials and their physical characterisation. Our interests span low molar mass and polymeric liquid crystals.

Research in low molar mas systems involves liquid crystal dimers containing two liquid crystal groups connected by a flexible spacer [1]. These exhibit unique properties including novel intercalated smectic phases and most recently, been shown to exhibit a new type of liquid crystal phase, the twist-bend nematic phase [2-5]. This project will involve the synthesis of new dimers designed to show this fascinating new phase. Our most recent discovery has involved the identification of a new family of heliconical smectic phases.

The physical characterisation of new materials will include a range of techniques including polarised light microscopy, differential scanning calorimetry, thermal gravimetric analysis coupled with mass spectrometry, temperature dependent Fourier transform infra red spectroscopy, dynamic and thermal mechanical analysis, and X-ray diffraction. The balance between organic synthesis and physical characterisation may be tailored to suit the student’s interests and background.

The successful candidate should have (or expect to have) a UK Honours Degree (or equivalent) at 2.1 or above in Chemistry

Knowledge: Organic and physical chemistry

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas Chemical Sciences in the discipline of Chemistry. Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for PhD in Chemistry, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct College for processing. NOTE CLEARLY THE NAME OF THE SUPERVISOR and EXACT PROJECT TITLE ON THE APPLICATION FORM.

Informal inquiries can be made to Professor C T Imrie ([Email Address Removed]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Graduate School Admissions Unit ([Email Address Removed]).

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project, it is for self-funded students only


1] Borshch V, Kim YK, Xiang J, Gao M, Jakli A, Panov VP, Vij JK, Imrie CT, Tamba MG, Mehl GH, Lavrentovich OD. Nematic twist-bend phase with nanoscale modulation of molecular orientation. Nature Communications. 2013;4.
[2] Paterson DA, Xiang J, Singh G, Walker R, Agra-Kooijman DM, Martinez-Felipe A, Gan M, Storey JMD, Kumar S, Lavrentovich OD, Imrie CT. Reversible Isothermal Twist-Bend Nematic-Nematic Phase Transition Driven by the Photoisomerization of an Azobenzene-Based Nonsymmetric Liquid Crystal Dinner. Journal of the American Chemical Society. 2016;138(16):5283-5289.
[3] Paterson DA, Gao M, Kim YK, Jamali A, Finley KL, Robles-Hernandez B, Diez-Berart S, Salud J, de la Fuente MR, Timimi BA, Zimmermann H, Greco C, Ferrarini A, Storey JMD, Lopez DO, Lavrentovich OD, Luckhurst GR, Imrie CT. Understanding the twist-bend nematic phase: the characterisation of 1-(4-cyanobiphenyl-4 '-yloxy)-6-(4-cyanobiphenyl-4 '-yl)hexane (CB6OCB) and comparison with CB7CB. Soft Matter. 2016;12(32):6827-6840.
[4] Xiang J, Li Y, Li Q, Paterson DA, Storey JMD, Imrie CT, Lavrentovich OD. Electrically Tunable Selective Reflection of Light from Ultraviolet to Visible and Infrared by Heliconical Cholesterics. Advanced Materials. 2015;27(19):3014-3018.
[5] Jansze SM, Martinez-Felipe A, Storey JMD, Marcelis ATM, Imrie CT. A Twist-Bend Nematic Phase Driven by Hydrogen Bonding. Angewandte Chemie-International Edition. 2015;54(2):643-646.
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