Liquid crystals are known that have ferroelectric, piezoelectric and flexoelectric properties. This means that in principle it is possible to generate charge by compressing or flexing liquid crystalline materials – something that is already done in piezoelectric polymer systems. This project will explore the potential of using liquid crystals in this way. The approach is quite new and has the potential to generate sufficient energy to power small electronic devices. We will combine several soft matter system types; liquid crystals, polymers and colloidal dispersions to explore the possibilities of such an approach. 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.