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What is Liquid Crystal (LC)?

Liquid Crystal is one of the most beautiful yet versatile smart materials around. It is a living protein and is very sensitive to temperature changes. With the ability to transition through several states, it is neither liquid nor solid. It exists in an in-between state. It has a helical molecular arrangement in very organised, parallel layers. Yet at the same time, LC has the flowing properties of a liquid. The space between the crystal molecules change to reflect light differently. Liquid crystalline must be protected by microencapsulation, which helps to maintain its thermochromic properties. These capsules are mixed with polymers and other substances to create a stable product.

The result is a gradient of stunning colours (in shades of red, green then blue) between the temperatures of 24°C and 29°C.liquid crystal application

 

This product is reversible. Before heat is applied, Liquid Crystal is cloudy in colour. But once it has reached its activation temperature, its magically transforms to show an array of vibrant colours. Colour will indicate temperature levels within +/- 0.5 degrees or less.

You are probably familiar with LCD, or Liquid Crystal Display, the standard display for almost every electronic device out there. Computers, TVs…even digital watches incorporate this technology.

The following video shows how a sheet of Liquid Crystal can be used to produce magnificent abstract patterns in the form of a Liquid Crystal Display.

Credit: Tim Paulawitz

For application, Liquid Crystal has numerous creative and commercial uses: Thermometer strips, batteries and thermal mapping are just a few goods which utilise this marvellous material. Common purposes include medical monitoring e.g when determining a patient’s temperature. This smart material will inspire any scientific or educational activity in schools and universities. If you are an educator looking to use this product with students, we have both small and large demonstration packs available, to help you effectively present its incredible properties.

small demonstration packlarge demonstration pack

In low temperatures e.g room temperature, Liquid Crystal is will appear black, as not much light is reflected. So, if you want a dramatic effect, a black background is your best bet. Either matt or shiny surfaces will work, since Liquid Crystal will stand out either way.

We have Liquid Crystal Ink for screen printing...

liquid crystal ink

And Sprayable Liquid Crystal available to purchase..

sprayable liquid crystalOur sprayable product can be used with an airbrush or other such spray kits. Coverage is up to 35ml per sqm. Liquid Crystal Ink can be applied via screen printing, a brush or stamping. Suitable substrates include paper and board. As screen printing can be used on such a versatile array of materials, LC can also be applied to fabrics such as t-shirts and other textile items. Several layers should be used but adding even more will increase colour intensity.

We also have the option to purchase vinyl and plastic film Liquid Crystal products. These are very easy to use. Simply cut and stick onto your chosen surface.

thermochromic liquid crystal colour changing filmliquid crystal vinyl

Here is a very creative example of an artist who has used our Liquid Crystal sheets!

The video below is a very simple test which shows how quickly Liquid Crystal reacts to changes in temperature.


Do bear in mind that repeated exposure to external influences, such as sunlight (UV), moisture, very high heat and solvents can damage the performance of this product. Since LC has a delicate composition, it has low scratch-resistance. A top-coat or varnish must be applied to ensure the finished article has a lasting effect. Just be sure that the substrate is suitable for liquid crystal. Therefore, it is recommended to do test runs before major application.

Liquid Crystal is a material that is sure to enchant makers, creators and innovators, for many generations to come.

What experiments or inventions would you like to try with Liquid Crystal? Let us know in the comments below or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter!

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