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Twist-bend liquid crystal phases

   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. These exhibit unique properties including novel intercalated smectic phases and most recently, have been shown to exhibit new types of liquid crystal phases, the twist-bend nematic and smectic phases [1-3]. These phases are spontaneously chiral even though the constituent molecules are achiral. This project will involve the synthesis of new dimers designed to show these fascinating new phases with application potential in new types of applications in electro-optic devices [4,5] and in other types of applications [6].

The physical characterisation of new materials will include a range of techniques including polarised light microscopy, differential scanning calorimetry, and thermal gravimetric analysis coupled with mass spectrometry. Experience will also be gained using molecular modelling of these new materials. The balance between organic synthesis and physical characterisation may be tailored to suit the student’s interests and background.

Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit. The successful candidate should have, or expect to obtain, a UK Honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Chemistry.

Formal applications can be completed online:

• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry

• State name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor

• State ‘Self-funded’ as Intended Source of Funding

• State the exact project title on the application form

When applying please ensure all required documents are attached:

• All degree certificates and transcripts (Undergraduate AND Postgraduate MSc-officially translated into English where necessary)

• Detailed CV, Personal Statement/Motivation Letter and Intended source of funding

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 Postgraduate Research School ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

This PhD project has no funding attached and is therefore available to students (UK/International) who are able to seek their own funding or sponsorship. Supervisors will not be able to respond to requests to source funding. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting


1. Abberley JP, Killah R, Walker R, Storey JMD, Imrie CT, Salamonczyk M, Zhu CH, Gorecka E, Pociecha D. Heliconical smectic phases formed by achiral molecules. Nature Communications. 2018;9:228.
2. Salamonczyk M, Vaupotic N, Pociecha D, Walker R, Storey JMD, Imrie CT, Wang C, Zhu CH, Gorecka E. Multi-level chirality in liquid crystals formed by achiral molecules. Nature Communications. 2019;10:1922.
3. Walker R, Pociecha D, Storey JMD, Gorecka E, Imrie CT. The Chiral Twist-Bend Nematic Phase (N*(TB)). Chemistry-a European Journal. 2019;25:13329-35.
4. Xiang J, Li YN, 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;27:3014-8.
5. Xiang J, Varanytsia A, Minkowski F, Paterson DA, Storey JMD, Imrie CT, Lavrentovich OD, Palffy-Muhoray P. Electrically tunable laser based on oblique heliconical cholesteric liquid crystal. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2016;113:12925-8.
6. Aya S, Salamon P, Paterson DA, Storey JMD, Imrie CT, Araoka F, Jakli A, Buka A. Fast-and-Giant Photorheological Effect in a Liquid Crystal Dimer. Advanced Materials Interfaces. 2019;6:1802032.
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