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Oscillating flow and light pulses can be used to create reconfigurable architecture in liquid crystals. Materials scientists can carefully engineer concerted microfluidic flows and localized optothermal fields to achieve control on nucleation , growth and shape of such liquid domains. In comparison, pure liquids in thermodynamic equilibrium are structurally homogeneous. Experimental work based on theory and simulations have shown that if the liquids are maintained in a controlled state of nonequilibrium, the resulting structures can be indefinitely stabilized.
Sculpted liquids can find applications in microfluidic devices to selectively encapsulate solutes and particles into optically active compartments to interact with external stimuli for a variety of medical, healthcare and industrial applications. In a recent study published in Science Advances, Tadej Emeršič and co-workers in Slovenia and the USA developed pure nematic liquid crystals (NLC), where they dynamically manipulated defects and reconfigurable states of the materials by the simultaneous application of multiple external fields.
Materials - Phases - Property - Functionality - Liquids
Solid materials can exhibit distinct structural phases simultaneously, a property that can be manipulated to engineer functionality. However, in pure liquids at equilibrium, such structural phases that correspond to grain boundaries and defects do not arise. While liquids exhibit a number of attractive features including the ability to wet surfaces, demonstrate high diffusion coefficients and absolute compliance, it is challenging to include additional functionalities to liquids due to their inherent homogeneity. Complex behavior is observed in multicomponent synthetic and biological mixtures and the resulting structures are difficult to manipulate since they occur in out-of-equilibrium situations. Such situations generally involve multiple components with sharp miscibility and gradients between hydrophilic and hydrophobic domains as well.
Scientists have developed active matter in the form of living colonies and bioinspired synthetic counterparts. They printed hydrophobic/hydrophilic domains on to liquid mixtures by relying on surfactant nanoparticles and controlled non-equilibrium systems to demonstrate the motion and transition...
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