Merging soft matter fields may lead to micromachines with minds of their own
Water melts directly from solid crystalline ice into liquid water. Some materials exhibit an intermediate phase. The molecules of these so-called liquid crystals self-organise in ways that their orientation resists certain deformations despite 'flowing'. This ordering is relevant to concepts from biological membrane organisation to liquid crystal displays for consumer products. Liquid crystal colloids are an exciting integration of liquid crystals and colloids; here colloidal particles are dispersed in a liquid crystal medium unlike conventional liquids. Self-assembly in such systems can lead to emergent physical behaviours akin to those of biological systems. The EU-funded [LC]2 project plans to harness these properties to drive the self-assembly of active nematics – biomimetic, autonomously motile, liquid crystal colloidal mini-machines.
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