Liquid crystal-enabled electro-osmosis through spatial charge separation in distorted regions as a novel mechanism of electrokinetics


Electrically controlled dynamics of fluids and particles at microscales is a fascinating area of research with applications ranging from microfluidics and sensing to sorting of biomolecules. The driving mechanisms are electric forces acting on spatially separated charges in an isotropic medium such as water. Here, we demonstrate that anisotropic conductivity of liquid crystals enables new mechanism of highly efficient electro-osmosis rooted in space charging of regions with distorted orientation. The electric field acts on these distortion-separated charges to induce liquid crystal-enabled electro-osmosis. Their velocities grow with the square of the field, which allows one to use an alternating current field to drive steady flows and to avoid electrode damage. Ionic currents in liquid crystals that have been traditionally considered as an undesirable feature in displays, offer a broad platform for versatile applications such as liquid crystal-enabled electrokinetics, micropumping and mixing.

Publication Title

Nature Communications