Liquid crystals are ordered fluids that can additionally exhibit one-dimensional periodic order – these are the so-called smectic phases. We know that the layer interactions influence the stability of some of the most fragile but interesting liquid crystal phases with antiferroelectric and ferrielectric order; we pioneered the approach to measuring the layer interaction. We would now like to understand how important the layer interactions are in influencing the stability of other exotic phases including the dark conglomerate phases. This project will carry out experimental investigations into the layer interactions, leading to a deep understanding of the physical properties that determine the self-organization of layered structures.
Research involving liquid crystals in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Leeds is primarily experimental. We are interested in understanding structures of self-organizing fluids – liquid crystals – and the influence of the order on the bulk structures. Controlling the order and defects by surface structures is also a key interest in the group. We work on novel materials supplied by world-leading chemists and our research is truly interdisciplinary. During the course of a PhD project, a variety of experimental and device fabrication techniques will be employed offering an excellent practical training to the PhD student. Data are analysed in the context of relevant theories and computer modeling is used to both understand the systems and to predict behaviour. Overall, the student will obtain a thorough training in experimental techniques, optics, functional materials and photonic devices, giving them an excellent background for a career in research.