Jess Wade, a physicist at Imperial College London, studies polymers and liquid crystals used in display and light-emitting diode technologies. This microscope image (at 10x magnification) shows a polymer and small chiral molecule blended in a film less than 100 nm thick. When Wade warmed the film up to a certain temperature called the polymer’s glass transition temperature, the chains became more flexible and, where there were defects on the underlying surface, started to form peacock-like structures. The feathery structures “may look great through a cross-polarized microscope, but in reality, any aggregates aren’t good for displays,” she says. By studying these transitions in and out of the liquid crystal state, Wade and her group can understand how temperature and film composition affects device performance.
Credit: Jess Wade and Li Wan, @jesswade, Department of Physics and Centre for Plastic Electronics, Imperial College London
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