The blue phases in liquid crystals are intriguing and beautiful. They are formed in highly chiral materials and a cubic crystalline structure is adopted although the system remains fluid. The lattice parameter is often in the visible range so that Bragg reflections are observed readily. This project seeks to understand the properties of the blue phases in new materials and geometries. Materials of interest include chiral bent-core molecules and the blue phases exhibited by them are expected to be different from those formed in conventional materials because the elastic and flexoelectric constants are quite different. We are also interested in how the cubic blue phases and similar systems order when the geometry is taken beyond the normal parallel plate configuration. We will develop a deep understanding of the blue phases and their physical properties in these new systems. This project has the potential to be collaborative with theoreticians in Durham.
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.