The study and application of LCs stands as a central discipline of soft materials science, providing the conceptual framework for understanding and describing a wide variety of structural and dynamic behavior. IRG1 research is directed toward the creation, understanding, and application of novel soft materials with liquid crystal organization as an underlying theme, and is organized into three major project areas: Molecular/Macroscopic, Functional Liquid Crystal Assemblies, and Active Soft Interfaces.
• Molecular/Macroscopic - This project focuses on the discovery of new LC structural paradigms; understanding the molecular origins of the macroscopic characteristics of LC systems; and the synthesis and physical evaluation of new materials designed to exhibit chosen features of LC molecular organization. Liquid crystalline systems investigated include helical nanofilament phases of bent-core LCs, colloidal LCs of inorganic molecular monolayer sheets, topological colloids, and chromonic LCs.
• Functional Liquid Crystal Assemblies - The ordering and structural features of LC phases can be used to advantage in creating novel assemblies of molecules and other nanoscale objects with specific functionality. Investigations are being carried out on photopolymerized nanoporous room-temperature ionic LCs, active nematics, and nanoDNA LCs.
• Active Soft Interfaces - A principal goal of this project is to develop and explore novel interfaces that can be used to probe interfacial structure and interactions, and be used to detect chemical environment. Research topics include using LC orientation as a sensitive biosensing tool with visual readout for sequence-selective detection of nucleic acids, using azo-SAMs to explore the photofluidization of glasses, and understanding the interplay of bulk and surface LC order.